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Fewer and fewer people are having to be physically present in the room with their team while at work, thanks to the efficiency and reliability of contemporary internet connectivity. This has quickly spread from the workplace to education and, especially in recent years, has almost become a staple of students all over the world. If you are reading this, you are probably about to begin studying online for the first time. This thorough guide is intended to help college students with little or no experience with online learning get to grips with the technology, the etiquette, the techniques and the tricks that will help them achieve their goals.

Why Do So Many People Love Online Education?

It only takes a brief glance to see why online learning has become so popular over the past few years. Of course, unexpected circumstances may have rapidly increased this technology’s specific and widespread use, but now it appears as if it is here to stay. Students and teachers alike revel in online education’s simplicity and convenience. As a student with little experience with online learning, you may still be skeptical about its virtues. Take a look at this quick list of reasons that online learning has become so popular so suddenly:

  • Not every student can attend traditional classes due to the distance from campus. The commute may be prohibitively long, or they can’t afford to move closer to their college. When an institution offers an alternative to studying online, this makes it easier to gain a valuable education for students who can’t turn up to campus.
  • Similarly, plenty of students cannot access campus buildings due to a lack of disability access, such as ramps and automated doors. Despite ongoing pushes to fund places of education so they can install the necessary accessibility equipment, many buildings are still inaccessible to people with mobility issues. Online learning means that students can study anywhere that suits them.
  • For some people, the idea of attending traditional in-person classes can be incredibly daunting. Social anxiety is a common condition that makes it difficult to interact with others, so if students are able to reduce their exposure to other people, they can feel more in control of how and when they make friends.
  • Different people have different methods of studying. Some of these methods aren’t always easy to follow in a traditional classroom setting, especially if they require specific stationery or materials. Students who study online can adapt their learning environment to suit their own needs and learn in their own way.
  • When people study independently, they are more likely to retain that information. The distance provided by online learning can help students to take greater control of their learning and engage with the program more.
  • Compared to traditional college programs, online learning programs are far more affordable and accessible to a wider population. Students who may have otherwise been unable to attend college due to a lack of funds could now find a program and college that aligns with their budget.
  • One of the biggest advantages online learning offers that traditional learning cannot compete with is its flexibility. Students can better manage their time and balance studies with other aspects of their lives without sacrificing what they care about. This is ideal for students who have families, jobs, or other responsibilities.
  • The variety of online programs compared to traditional colleges is far greater. Online learning should be your first port of call if you are searching for a highly specific program and want to develop a particular skill.

What Are the Common Challenges of Learning Online?

While online education may sound almost too good to be true, there are in fact several downsides. Here are a few examples of how online learning falls short of traditional in-person learning:

  • Some students require the added accountability that comes with attending in-person lessons as it motivates them to work harder and complete tasks on time. Online learning is easier to skip or create excuses for missing.
  • Opportunities to collaborate and make friends with classmates are much more difficult online than in-person. The gradual and unintentional flow of getting to know each other is blocked by the structure and formality of online interactions, especially when mediated by a teacher. Spending time in the same room together makes it easier to develop friendships.
  • Technical difficulties can make online learning far more frustrating than traditional learning. Spotty internet, broken devices, and deleted files are ways online learning can be worse than in-person.
  • Some people find it harder to concentrate when there isn’t a teacher or other students in the room. This means that for some students, it is harder to tune in to what is being said when their own belongings and environment surround them. Maintaining a division between studying and home life becomes more difficult to manage.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Online Education

Now that you know a little bit more about the upsides and downsides of online learning, you can take a look at some of the following tips. These are intended to help you take full advantage of your online education experience.

Find the Right Program for You

Online learning can offer a wide variety of programs that traditional colleges might not offer. This can be particularly useful for people hoping to learn something niche or earn a qualification to help their career. For example, if you are already a nurse and want to develop your skills, you would have to find a program that matches your criteria. Which programs would your current level of qualification get you into? If you wanted to study for your AGNP certification, you would need to look for a program that provided everything you needed to obtain the accreditation and pursue your career. Fortunately, online learning makes it easier to locate these types of specific programs.

Use Suitable Equipment

One of the drawbacks of online learning is that it often requires you to possess your own internet-connected devices so you can access the learning materials. Some colleges run programs that temporarily lend or rent out these devices to students, but not all do this. If possible, using the best equipment will help you enjoy a more seamless online education experience. Reliable internet and a device that can store all your files are essential, as well as anti-virus protection of some kind to prevent your data from being stolen or corrupted. If your college program requires you to attend live video lessons, make sure you have a device that can stream reliably and has a functional camera and a microphone so you can actively contribute to discussions.

Ask Questions and Check Your Materials

When you learn online, it is much easier to lose track of what stage your program is at. To make this easier, try to be as prepared as possible at the beginning of the semester so you can take thorough notes and get ready for any upcoming deadlines or tests. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher and check that you have all the program materials before the semester begins, as this will help you stay on top of your studies.

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Make Time to Meet Classmates

When you are learning remotely, you may not get the opportunity to meet your classmates in person since you don’t have lessons on campus or in a designated location. This can make building your network and making friends much more difficult. Instead of waiting for someone else to make the first move, invite your classmates to a casual social gathering so you can all get to know each other. This can be helpful if you want to form a study group and collaborate on ideas. Some students enjoy online learning because it eliminates the pressure to attend classes with other people, but even introverts can benefit from social interaction now and then.

Create an Optimal Study Area

Seize the opportunity to make your ideal learning environment and create a workspace dedicated to concentration and studying. Comfortable desk furniture and good lighting are essential, as well as a quiet atmosphere so you can become absorbed by your work. Some students work well with music or ambient sounds playing, whereas others require complete silence. If you relate to the latter, sound-proofing tiles can be applied to your study room’s walls to create a dampening effect so you can shut out the world better. Make sure that if your program involves video calls, you have a suitable backdrop for your webcam. This means keeping your space tidy and appropriate for others to see.

Build Your Self-Discipline

Since you won’t have the subtle pressure of other classmates or your teacher in the room to motivate you to work, you will need to cultivate strong willpower and self-discipline to study effectively. Remove distractions from your sight, such as your phone, and block any websites you might want to lose yourself in halfway through a study session. Being strict with yourself isn’t fun at first, but the results will speak for themselves. Learn to delay your gratification so that you can focus on your studies for extended periods of time.

What is Online Learning Video Etiquette?

As with any new development in technology and human interaction, online video calls and meetings have developed their own form of etiquette. Fortunately, this has nothing to do with whether or not you can put your elbows on the table or which hand uses which utensil. Online learning through video etiquette, in particular, revolves around showing respect for the person hosting the meeting and whoever is speaking. In a lot of ways, many things follow the same common courtesies of being in a physical classroom. Still, other aspects of etiquette should be followed as a basic sign of respect toward the educator and fellow students. 

 The following are basic rules that many online educators encourage when hosting a video lesson with their students:

  • Just as being late to an in-person class is considered rude, so is showing up late to a video lesson. Have your device ready to join the meeting as soon as it begins.
  • Keep your device’s microphone muted unless you want to speak so that any audio from your surroundings does not interfere with anyone else’s ability to hear the speaker’s voice.
  • Keep your device’s camera on so that you are visible to the group, particularly if the group is relatively small. This enhances the impression of being in the same room together as in a traditional classroom.
  • Appearing distracted by something other than the video lesson is discouraged as it demonstrates a lack of respect for the person speaking.
  • Dress appropriately so that the part of your body showing on camera is presentable.
  • Avoid looking at yourself on the screen. Other classmates don’t always pick up on this, but not listening to the speaker and paying attention to something else is considered rude.

Of course, these rules will all vary depending on who is teaching the lesson and their personal preferences. Some online learning doesn’t require the use of video meetings at all.

The benefits of online learning are numerous, but that doesn’t mean that the necessary skills are automatically understood by everyone when they first participate. There are many similarities between online and in-person learning, such as taking careful notes and asking useful questions, but there are also many differences. Online learning takes away the human touch that comes with face-to-face interactions, which can leave students feeling isolated. However, online learning is also often more convenient, accessible, and affordable than traditional learning, as well as other advantages. Once you have decided that online learning is the right path for you to achieve your education goals, using it to its fullest is essential. Hopefully, this guide has answered any questions you might have had about how you can make the most out of your online learning experience and pave the way for your successful future career.


IITSWEB is the Chief Business Development Officer at IITSWEB, a Magento design and development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. He is a Member of the Magento Association and an Adobe Sales Accredited Magento Commerce professional. Jan is responsible for developing and leading the sales and digital marketing strategies of the company. He is passionate about ecommerce and Magento in particular — throughout the years his articles have been featured on Retail Dive, Hacker Noon, Chief Marketer, Mobile Marketer, TMCnet, and many others.

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