Top Tips for Studying Online at University

With the academic year approaching, bringing with it a new approach to studying, we’ve put together our top tips for studying online.

This Autumn, we will start a whole new learning journey together at SPS. The blended learning approach being taken across the University of Kent will see all lectures moved online – in the School we will refer to them as e-lectures, helping you think of them as dedicated virtual learning slots in your timetable. For those starting University in September, this may be your first time studying online. While making this change may not seem easy at the start, there are plenty of ways you can make the transition easier.

1. Create a study space

Separating studying from your downtime is a great habit to get into and the space you use to study can make a big difference. Like those working from home, it can be hard to switch off when everything takes place in the virtual world. Having a designated study space and making sure you have a change of scenery in your physical world can make it easier to separate your study time from your free time. You also need to make sure you’re comfortable – just like in the lecture theatre if you’re too hot, too cold or too cramped it can be tricky to study. So try and find somewhere you can comfortably work, whether that’s at a desk, on the sofa or just a comfy spot in your bedroom. And be prepared. Make sure you’ve got your laptop, a way of taking notes and some water with you at the start of an e-lecture, so you can focus on and engage with the session.

2. Find the right study times for you 

We’ve mentioned separating study time from your free time with the space you use but this is also important with your time. Try to find the times that you prefer to study and plan your schedule around those. Not everyone will be able to keep a strict 9-5 schedule and that’s completely ok! Your e-lectures in SPS will be delivered live, to give you the best experience, and we will also timetable time each morning to help your schedule time to do any prep work for these. You will also have workshops and labs – on-site – but outside of these  you will have more flexibility so you can find out what times you study best. And at the end of the day, make sure that when you decide to stop studying, you really do stop!

3. Keep taking notes

Just like in-person classes, taking notes is important when studying online. Make sure you still have either a notebook or electronic device for note-taking with you when you have an e-lecture. If you go for the electronic route, there are plenty of free apps that can help you organise all of your notes including Microsoft OneNote, Google Drive and Evernote. 

4. Make a group study chat

Studying in a group lets you discuss any problems/tasks you’ve been set, discuss upcoming labs/workshops or talk through a new topic to get a better understanding. 

Learning online doesn’t mean you can’t still work with other students on your course. In fact, connecting with course mates will be more important than ever and setting up study groups will be a great way to meet new friends on your course too. There are lots of platforms you can use to make a group chat or have virtual group study sessions including Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp etc.  Most of your e-lectures will be delivered using Microsoft Teams – which can also be used for group discussions and calls – and we will be looking at training to ensure you get the most out of this software. 

A great way to check your understanding of a new concept is to try explaining to someone else. This is especially useful with course mates as you can check each other’s understanding too!  

We know that working in a group is not only an essential skill but it’s something that our students really enjoy and benefit from. So we are working to allocate slots in your timetable to do this – but of course, we encourage you to keep working in groups outside of this.

5. Try out some online skills courses over the summer

Learning and having classes online will be something new for a lot of people and, as with any new skills, practice will make it easier. Try taking some online courses over the summer to get used to how it will work. There are lots of free online course platforms out there to try. Skillshare is currently offering a 2 week free trial and have courses on just about everything so you could try taking a course in anything you like! 

6. Make the most of free online software for Kent students

There are plenty of free online resources that the university provides for students that help your online learning. All students have access to Microsoft Office for free on multiple devices as well as subject specific study software. The library has a big selection of eBooks and eResources that you can access online with your Kent IT account. 

7. Take breaks away from your screen

Taking regular breaks is more important than ever when studying online. You can easily find yourself at your screen all day which could make you less productive so it’s a good idea to take time away. Do something you enjoy for a break whether that’s going for a walk, reading a book, talking to friends or anything else to relax your mind. 

8. Reach out if you need any support

You may not see your lecturers or course mates in person as often as you’d like but that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. At SPS, we’re a family and we’re here to help whenever you need us. You’ll be able to contact your academic advisor, your lecturers, our student support team, peer mentors and course reps when you need support. And look out for Q&A sessions ovr the summer, where you can chat to our staff – and each other – about the new term.

If you have any other top tips for studying online, share them with us on Twitter @UniKentSPS or Instagram @uni.kent.sps

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