‘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 your 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

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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

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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

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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

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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 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

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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

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Comments (43)

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  • 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.