‘I’ll do it tomorrow’: How to start and keep going on an online course

Struggling to start and finish an online course? In this post we share some of our tips and tricks for completing online learning.

Some of the best things about online learning are also the reasons it’s hard to keep going: it’s often free, there’s no real pressure, you can learn at your own pace. Once you’re past the initial excitement of finding an online course procrastination sets in and soon you’re ignoring the reminder emails and telling yourself you’ll do it next weekend. 

So how do you get started and then keep going? Here are our tips. 

1. Make the time

how to keep going on a course FutureLearn 1

Don’t just say to yourself ‘Tuesday nights are learning nights’ – block out some time for learning in a tangible way. Set an event on your phone (with an alarm) or write it in a diary. Maybe tell friends and family the time, and get them to remind you. Having time that’s been properly set aside will help you learning feel like more of a commitment that you can’t skip. 


2. Try and stay focused

how to keep going on a course FutureLearn 2

If you find yourself on Facebook or Twitter every five minutes when you should be learning you’re not alone. It’s almost an unconscious behaviour for lots of us. But there are solutions. For instance apps like SelfControl allow you to specify a list of sites you can’t visit for a fixed amount of time. It’s also worth removing distractions around you like phones and unrelated paperwork (read more about creating a good environment for online learning). 


3. Know what you want to achieve

how to keep going on a course FutureLearn 3

Whether it’s knowing 100 words of Italian, being able to explain what a gene is, or knowing where to invest a spare £50 – having a goal that you can achieve thanks to your learning is a good motivator. Try and avoid vague goals, if you make it something more specific you’ll really feel you’ve made progress when you achieve it. Write it out somewhere nice and big, and have it in your eye-line – it’ll remind you of why you’re learning.


4. Get yourself the right tools

how to keep going on a course FutureLearn 4

Having something you’ve bought especially, like a nice notebook or pen, to help you learn might help you get excited about your learning. It doesn’t have to be a big thing or even something you’ve bought – it might be a well-organised file on your computer or a note-keeping app. Either way, have somewhere special where you can write notes and ideas down – that way you’ll feel excited about coming back. 


5. Try not to worry about the workload

how to keep going on a course FutureLearn 5

If you’re worrying about the amount you need to get through on a course learning becomes a chore. Try not to think about all the work you need to do. Often you can learn step by step online – you don’t need to spend two hours or write pages and pages of notes

Category Using FutureLearn

Comments (84)

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  • Sandra Spruce

    This is a brilliant course and I really really do want to complete it. However I am my husband’s main carer and it is a 24/7 role. He has been, and still is, quite sick. This means I have so little time to do anything. I thought it might be sensible to do it when it runs again. It is excellent, I cannot fault it in any way. Future Learn is an important part of my life. I am just in a predicament at the moment.

  • Niza

    This is an interesting course and I really enjoy it, unfortunately, I no longer have access to the internet service because my device is not of use due the accident.
    I will surely resume as soon as I get back on this.

    THANK YOU.

  • meram

    This course is very important to me but i m to busy to do it, I con try to do my best thank you so much to help me to learning thanks again.

  • maria

    elementary

  • Philip

    I don’t know what really keep me busy these days, but the course is very enjoyable and I like it. Such that sometimes my mind tell me something opposite so I always find my self at a pivot point ,feeling like failing to choose my good ways.

  • Helen

    I started on Jazz piano 1 but stopped after about 3 weeks as I just didn’t understand what the guy was trying to say. I think it was quite a high level for a level 1 course! I may try to get some lessons in jazz piano and then go back to it in a few years when I have some experience.

  • Lusine

    I am really very busy, but I need to keep and reading this course, this course is very important for my career. Thank you for opportunity.
    Sincerely yours,
    Lusine Gharibyan

  • Aliamante

    This tips of advice is surely to my life. Thank you! I should put them in to practice!

  • Maryam salman

    That very good advices i read it about learning online it gives me a very good motivator to learning and improving my skills . thanks a lot

  • Therence NSHIMIRIMANA

    I am really very busy but I realy need to keep on reading the course as well

  • Yusra Jawad

    I am really interested in this course but due to my very busy schedule these days I’m unable to give time. I’ve also started another course so managing both has become really difficult.
    I’m hoping to be free after the 13th of August and then I’ll hopefully get back on track.

  • LUCY MAINA

    I am currently in a very engaging activity that is running for very long hours but will be done by next week. I can’t wait to get back!

  • Patricia Farrell

    I could not complete as I was physically unable to read the information set out. The work was on green background and could not read. My skills is not at the level to know how to resolve.

  • MUTIAT BOSE ADEOSHUN

    MY PROBLEM IS MONEY, BECAUSE I AM UNEMPLOYED, SO ,I DO NOT HAVE MONEY TO PAY FOR THIS COURSE AND ITS MAKING FEEL DEPRESS

  • Colin Ayres

    These are good points but the reason I cannot do the course us that it is dependent on video recording my lessons. I teach children and I will not be able to get parents’ permission gor this until mid-September, despite wanting an online course to focus on in the summer holdays.

  • sandra

    Good and usefull Tips and tricks. Thank you.

  • Karla Lawless

    Understanding Diversity and Inclusion – I have been doing this course for the last couple of weeks but, due to travel, lagging behind. It is an excellent course requiring a lot of time and input. As I will not finish it in the allocated time, I have been advised to put it on my Wishlist, which I have done…to start again when it runs in the future. Thank you.

  • Evandro Rosa Evandro Rosa de Araújo

    I love Jane Austen and the course is wonderful, I felt desmotivated about the test. In other courses I could answer the test but in it is not possible 😕

  • Lisa Pritchard

    I would like the courses to have an option to run at half the pace so that the typical commitment is only 1.5 hours per week rather than 3. Experience tells me that the courses are most enjoyable and effective if you are able to keep up with your peers and participate in the discussions as they happen. Having to commit to 3 hours per week is putting me off signing up to new courses at the moment on top of the other commitments in my life, but 1.5 hrs feels more manageable.

    • Chris

      Hi Lisa – that is a great idea – we are all so time poor (particularly parents) that anything that can be done to help encourage participation would be great. Hope FutureLearn is up for this option to be included!

  • Rosa Alicia Bolanos

    I would like have some news from Futurelearn. I finished my course. I have paid it and completed all modules and assessments. Therefore I request my certificate. It has not happened with my others courses. Please I forward to hearing from you. All the best.

  • Rosa Alicia Bolanos

    I am finished my course. I have not any news from Futurelearn. It never have happened in my others courses. I would like get my certificate. I hope someone answered and confirm my request. All the best.

  • Lemmy

    thank you soooo much!

  • Heather Sword

    Thanks for the reminder but I found the Spanish was way over my head, I have very little Spanish vocabulary and I could’t understand the after course comments from other students. I need a basic course not this one.

  • MAUniquepearl

    I appreciate the email. I have not being active due to unstable ill health. However, this reminder is motivating. Thanks.

  • Warda

    Thank you so much for such a good reminder and your ur good effort to make me getting back 😊

  • Julie Doshi

    Thank you for the alert. I am truly enjoying the course and want to finish it but an illness in the family has kept me busy. Will try to make up😊

    • Warda

      Hi Julie😊
      How is your family now? May they get well soon.

  • Thabitha

    Thanks for this wonderful tips………………..
    Apart from the distractions mentioned, as a professional held with several work priorities, official tours and also the responsibilities towards family, especially children.
    Will definitely take up the course and complete. This week I do not have much official priorities. Hopefully will be able to complete.

  • Andrew Sherlock

    Work!!! But only 7 more days to go then I can focus !!

    • Warda

      Hi Andrew,
      In which field are you working?

  • Martin Ssenyange

    Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, my mother was hospitalized in critical condition two days to the start of my course (How to Write a PhD Research Proposal). I was the only nearest son who had to take care of her for two weeks. I am glad she is now back to her home and much better. However, I had to catch up on work after her discharge from hospital which has taken me another week. I certainly would like to continue on with my course. I want to get myself into graduate school for a PhD soon. This was an opportunity I had certainly treasured.

  • KOSA Michelle

    Ne vous inquiétez pas de mon apparente irrégularité dans le cours : j’ai des obligations familiales qui m’empêchent d’y consacrer tout le temps que je voudrais. D’autre part je n’ai pas d’enjeu professionnel. Mais j’ai l’habitude d’aller au bout de mes projets, je l’ai expérimenté dans ma vie professionnelle (maîtrise de Sciences économiques, diplôme d’expertise comptable, diplômes universitaires de 3ème cycle en gestion fiscale, en gestion de patrimoine…) Je suis toujours autant passionnée par le sujet du cours et si j’ai besoin de temps, c’est que le sujet est dense, que les commentaires du professeur me demandent de la réflexion et que l’anglais ne m’est pas naturel, me demande du travail ce dont je suis ravie car je progresse. Je vais “upgrader” le cours pour pouvoir poursuivre à mon rythme et repasser les tests auxquels j’ai échoué une première fois. Ma méthode vous semble peu “orthodoxe”mais elle va me permettre d’aboutir. Merci pour votre sollicitude et soyez assurés de toute mon amitié.

  • Bob van Heukelom

    Thank you for your boost. Week 4 was quite complicated and the extra articles the teachers has given us to dig deeper in the chemistry of the invention of new medicines were very difficult for us. I still want to finish the course but at a slower pace. The course is fantastic and I have learned a lot so far, although the pronounciation of their English is sometimes chalenging.

  • Judith Newman

    Thank you for your reminder but as I have upgraded I intend to carry on at my own pace. I am in the middle of a family crisis caused by illness and hope to get back on track soon.

  • Ana Munoz

    Thanks for the reminder. I do want to finish the course, but I had to put it aside until I finish grading my students’ final exams. I will resume it as soon as I can. It is really interesting and I’m learning quite a lot.

    • Warda

      Hi Ana,
      Hope you are doing well. Ana are you a teacher?
      I also belong to this profession.

  • Irene Ong

    Thank you for this email and tips. It’s truly appreciated. I have had a family crisis and had to be away for an indefinite period just when I was starting on my course. Will pick up and try my best to catch up.

  • Peter Gumbo

    Thank you. I was out doing field visit so I could not keep pace with others. I think I will have to start where I ended if that is allowed to lag behind. I am really interested in the course.

  • Janeth Prieto

    Thank you for all your advises, and I will finish for sure, I love to learn new languages, the thing is I have a lot of responsibilities at home and work as well, and when I learn German is very very early in the mornings before I go to work, so there are some days in which I simply cannot get up so early, but I am working on it!!!!

  • Saadya

    Thanks for your help ,but I see that there is no hope, I have joined several courses in your web Icant getting better ,can’t find a job.I am alooser

  • Jacqueline Trinder-Da Costa

    I’ve gone off track as I’ve had a very sick grand daughter and the stress has taken over the ability to concentrate. Hopefully I can over come and get back on track before it’s too late.

  • Marion Alderson

    Sorry, I only need to finish the test at the end of the course. I want to get high marks so I have been working on the second course Introduction to Chinese Conversation so that I can better understand the pronunciation. I will finish as soon as I have the confidence to answer the questions

  • Marion

    I feel that I am coping very well with this course and am loving learning Chinese. Unfortunately, the other students do seem to be much more advanced than me and are using the discussions to write in characters. I am not able to read these for obvious reasons and I wonder how many of us beginners are being put off with not being able to read the texts in English.

  • Joseph KAMUZINZI

    I am sorry, I got some challenges that I am working on and hopefully in three weeks time I will be able to continue the course.

  • Soraya Morovati

    I am a procrastinator person. Unfortunately I do get stressed out.
    This time because of illness of my mother I had to spend lot of time in hospital and it was less time for myself.
    I am sorry not finishing on time but always appreciated your courses online and I think it’s wonderful that you give people opportunity to educate themselves and be better people for their families and the society. Thank you from bottom of my heart.

  • Lynn Mills

    Thank you for the motivation tips. I have had recurrent carer duties for a very poorly aunt, who has now, sadly, passed away. I will be trying to catch up on the course – ciao.

  • Narine

    Thank you for your attention and I’m sorry that I had to solution my other problem related health, and I had not enough time for course. But I hope I’ll learn the essential course . To achieve my goals.

  • david durow

    Sorry I have had to stop for despite eye clinic treatment efforts I have just lost the sight in one eye and informed. it will take several months for my good eye to adjust and see properly again. I wish the best of luck to fellow students with this course

  • Patricia Candler

    I upgraded, but didn’t take the tests because I was aware that I didn’t know my stuff!!! Not good at maths, it will be some time before I shall be worth a certificate. I am interested, and shall return probably after I’ve had my eye operation.

  • kavita

    thank you for motivating

  • Antonio dos Santos Carlos Pedro

    Well, it is a pleasure to make part of this dream team. I like to learn new things and FutureLearn is the option. Thanks for joining me back. Hugs.

  • mbayame

    I am very interested in online courses but unfortunately I have a very busy agenda. I found your advices very informative and I will try to apply them to continue the courses. Thanks

  • Amira Sghaier

    Thank you very much for these helpful pieces of advice. Also thank you for your attention and for keeping reminding me of the course.

  • Samuel

    Thanks for the write-ups. I really appreciate.

  • Jacqueline

    Thanks a lot. The post is quite useful. I will try to adjust to finish at least one of the courses. Even, the one I paid for, I have not been able to give it the needed attention.

  • ilham haddadi

    thx for caring about me.

  • Kaseke Freddy

    Hi. Thank you for waking me up. I would like to get a certificate at the end of each course. I’m demotivated because I do not have the money for certificates.

  • Gaby Chavez

    Thanks a lot for the advices! I really appreciate them!

  • Lamine CISSE

    Very interesting advices and think all these strategics are followable. Thank you very much I fond it good

  • Marie-Annick

    Thank you for sound advices.
    For the moment it looks like I am neglecting this computer learning.
    In fact I haven’t given up at all, but I am so very very busy with a huge moving and relocating, with alas, a big consecutive backache !
    As soon as possible I am back and pursue this interesting learning

  • Kristy H.

    I love Future Learn. It’s great to keep my mind sharp as I get older.
    I also love the idea of keeping a notepad or journal just for school purposes.

  • Dr mukund lal

    feel futurelearn is best online learning platform and very efficient and economical for learning.get a chance to attain reynoun university overseas and certify.at a glance futurelearn is best online learning sheltor and can be implement the knowledge in required field sustain and prove yourselve….

  • Feysal

    Thanks alot. You did all that you were suppose to be done

  • Pushpa Gamage

    Thanks Lily and Future Learn, providing this wonderful opportunity for learning new things, ideas and lot more. Even Though I couldn’t complete some courses fully, I learned and brushed my knowledge with those courses. I will be with you next year also and wish you very happy new year from Sri Lanka.

  • Judith Finney

    I’ve had a wonderful year with my Future learn courses; enjoyed every one. Am now trying to finish my latest before my next one begins mid-January. Thank you Future learn, I’m well and truly hooked.

  • Afor Paul

    Thanks Lily and Future learn. I feel deeply honored to be a part of the future learn family. Though I left some few courses uncompleted, am just so glad that I found future learn in 2018. My motivation is as fresh as ever. I believe I’ll achieve more with future learn this year. Am looking forward to an exciting, challenging and fulfilling year, 2019.

  • Carolyn E

    Thanks Lily for providing the opportunity to reply at this time of year. I appreciate the blend of courses that you curate and send to my inbox. Life is a series of projects. I intend to restart my lifelong learning with Futurelearn in the new year.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  • William Starkey

    Best wishes too Lily and her team for making possible FutureLearn without which, the world would be a poorer place.
    Bill Starkey

  • Sue Chapman

    I have completed a good amount of Future Learn courses this year. The last at the end of November and so I thought I would give myself a break, until the new year when I will refreshed and ready to take another course. After all, learning new things is really good for the mind but so it s a break, so you don’t get over stretched.

    I look forward to learning something new in 2019 and found the study guide helpful. Half the battle is finding something which you are really interested in, so you can go the distance.

  • Silvia Saiquita

    Good tips!!! I enjoy online courses, I learned many useful things for my classes, and I want to thanks Futurelearn for everything.
    Merry Christmas!!!!

  • Billy Huft U

    Awesome and kind platform to expand all sorts of learning journeys ! Thanks a lot for this opportunity.
    Season greetings.
    Winter 2018

  • Betty Cheesman

    I have completed several Futurelearn courses this year and enjoyed every one of them. I followed the suggestions about learning. My course starts in January and I can’t wait, as a recent retiree Futurelearn has given me the structure and motivation I needed.

  • Karen Beckwith

    I’ve really enjoyed Futurelearn this year and follow all the learning tips suggested. What really helps though on a course is having a suggested reading list in week 1 so library books can be ordered and having a couple of mentors look through the comments and make suggestions each week. Some courses use PhD students to do this. YouTube links are also very popular and keep students motivated. Having a partner or friend to learn with also promotes off line discussion and keeps you focused.

  • S Mc Cormick

    I am often detoured/road-blocked by excessive comments. Then scrolling through really long threads, that are tangent to the discussion. I’ll click on “activity”, to get the most recent comments and find a few learners are 2 or more weeks ahead of everyone else. These conditions do not add to enjoyment in learning. Can Self-control app put a leash on runaway students, as well as pulling along the reluctant?

  • agnus

    I like online courses

  • Kadir

    When I fall behind on the course because of my university exams or etc, I do not fell like finishing the course anymore.I do leave the course and retake it when I can get to catch up with the current disscussion section on the course.

  • SUSANA CELIA MOYANO

    I agree to continue following the next steps of Compassionate Care. I’m deprived apparently to enter easily.

  • Osman Abashar

    Its good advice

  • Mehwish

    Yes this is very good suggestion for us.

  • Matt J

    Find a space to learn in – your physical environment can have a huge impact in terms of distractions, comfort and productivity. Online learners are in their own space – treat it like your own campus; with the tools you need in your environment to learn.

  • Will Parker

    This is the same advice I gave to learners when teaching, the same advice I advised teachers to share when providing guidance to other teachers and the same advice I completely forget to apply myself when I am studying. It is excellent advice though.

  • Helen Houldcroft

    Thanks, very good advice. I will have to remember it.

  • Fwangjel Pantu Abafras

    This is an interesting tips for learning. I really appreciate it.