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Five Tips for Success in Your Online Course

You’re enrolled in a self-paced, online course. Where do you start? How will you maintain focus?

One really important thing to remember about this style of learning is that the self-motivation and self-direction required to complete the course are excellent life skills that will be of benefit to you far beyond your “school” days. So while you’re learning how to calculate the mass of an apple, and really, you could put that task off until tomorrow without losing marks, you’re also teaching yourself an extremely valuable life skill.

Here are a few tips to staying motivated and managing your time:

1. Set realistic goals with deadlines.

To begin, read your course outline and scan through the course content. Set dates for when you plan to write each test and submit each assignment. Do your best to stick to your plan! Even go so far as to schedule your final exam.

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2. Prioritize.

Next, prioritize tasks that you’d like to accomplish each day or week. Make a “To Do” list for everything you have to do, and then decide what needs to happen first.  It may look like this:

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015:

  • Start laundry
  • Study for SCH3U unit 2 test
  • Holiday shopping for family
  • Submit ENG3U poetry assignment
  • Take Buddy for a walk
arrow-right Tuesday, December 15th, 2015:

  1. Submit ENG3U poetry assignment
  2. Start laundry
  3. Study for SCH3U unit 2 test
  4. Take Buddy for a walk
  5. Holiday shopping for family

Depending on your interests, you may find holiday shopping to be more enjoyable than studying and so keeping shopping to the end of the day will help maintain your motivation to complete the other tasks. Whatever you enjoy doing most on your “To Do” list, make it a reward for the end of the day!

3. Create a designated study place.

Whether it’s in your room, at the kitchen table, or at the library, pick a place that becomes your office/classroom. Having one spot that you associate with study can help to keep you focused while you’re “on the job.”

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4. Take breaks!

This is SO important and probably my biggest takeaway for you. When you’re frustrated, tired, or bored, TAKE A BREAK! Whether the break is 5 minutes, 1 day, or 3 days, sometimes all you need is a break, and then when you go back to your work, you’re fresh, relaxed, and ready to try again.

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5. Reward yourself.

What do you enjoy? As mentioned in tip #1, think of little rewards that will motivate you to reach your next goal. To hold you accountable, involve someone else in your reward, or choose a reward that simply cannot happen early, like a movie release. If you want to learn another life skill, make the rewards easily accessible so that you can practice self-discipline.

By setting goals, creating a designated study space, taking breaks, and rewarding yourself,  you will be successful in your course and just as important, you will have learned approaches that will make everything you do more manageable.

You CAN do it!


JackieJackie Loebach is the Marketing and User Experience Strategist at Virtual High School. As a recent graduate, Jackie remains passionate about learning and is constantly searching for innovative solutions to everyday challenges. The tips in this post come directly from her experiences as a student when she found ways to maintain motivation & focus.

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