As we all cope with the effects of COVID-19, many of you are being asked to engage in a style of learning that is both unexpected and unfamiliar.  However, online education can be just as effective and rewarding as traditional classroom methods, provided you devote some time to preparing yourself and try out some strategies for success.

To help you make this transition and gain confidence in online education, we offer the following top 5 tips for a strong start.

Tip #1 – Find a motivating workspace

Your capacity for learning is directly affected by the setting in which you access your online lectures and learning materials.  That means the space around you should be comfortable, free of distractions and support your ability to think, question, and reflect as you watch, listen, or read.

Your Library offers specific advice on how to prepare yourself to study effectively online. Here are just a few examples:

Tip #2 – Connect with others

Effective learning takes place within a community of students, teachers, tutors and support staff who are willing to interact with each other.  The quality of your online experience will depend on how willing you are to engage with your learning community.

Consider setting up or joining online groups with other students in your tutorials or course units to chat about course content and share ideas. Use online tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts to read, listen or watch course videos with your study group or classmates. You will be able to discuss the content and learn from one another.  For more detailed advice, visit the Study programs website.

Tip #3 Seek help early and often

Online education can actually make it easier to speak up, ask questions and get help.  For lectures you will have access to Moodle forums and other opportunities to contribute to discussions and ask questions online.  Additionally, your Library offers a virtual drop-in service to help you understand and complete your assignments throughout the semester.

You can access personalised assistance through the Research and Learning virtual drop-ins where experts are waiting to help you interpret assignment guidelines, improve your writing, develop an argument, design a presentation, find research materials, reference your research, and much more.  For help after hours, you may also visit the Library’s Research and Learning Online where a range of e-learning modules and other resources to help you develop the skills you need are available anywhere, anytime.

Tip #4 – Be a self-directed learner

Whether you attend a classroom or access a Moodle module online, your capacity for learning depends on your commitment to being a self-directed learner.  That means, your instructors are not the centre of your learning environment.  Instead they are facilitators who guide and support your learning journey.

This will require you to plan and practise independent learning strategies, such as time management, setting daily goals, asking questions, and reaching out for help when you need it.

One way to start is to get in the habit of setting SMART learning goals for every unit and assignment.

Tip #5 Reward yourself often

Self-care is especially important right now. All work and no play can lead to burnout fast. Reward yourself whenever you achieve mini-goals such as completing an assessment, completing your reading for the day, or finishing a Moodle module.

A system of rewards can range from a short break to watch your favourite TV show, to taking a walk outside, or using your favourite socialising app as a reward, instead of a distraction.  Taking time off to celebrate your achievements will go a long way towards keeping you motivated.

Important!  Your mental health and wellbeing is a top priority.  If you find yourself experiencing loneliness or depression, the university has staff and resources to help you.  Let someone know and don’t go it alone.

Keep checking this space for weekly updates, advice and more tips to help you stay connected, and make the most of your online education experience at Monash University.

About the author: Greg Rublee is a Research and Learning Coordinator at the Sir Louis Matheson Library, Clayton campus.