Learning independently can be a pretty scary prospect. You have to manage your time, stay motivated, and get through your assigned work on your own: there’s no one keeping you on track but you.
Sounds pretty terrifying, right?
Luckily, the reality is not nearly as scary. Blended learning and online programs have a lot of advantages. They allow you to learn at your own pace, and help you prepare for a successful career by honing your time management and critical thinking skills. At MH Vicars School, we’ve been teaching massage therapy through blended learning for more than a decade: our students spend four days a month in the classroom, and complete 20-25 hours of independent work on their own each week.
So how do they do it? Here are three important strategies for staying motivated, making the best use of your time, and ensuring that you succeed in a blended, online, or distance education course.
1. Choose the right program for you
We’re putting this right at the top of the list because your entire education depends on it. When you choose a course or program that you’re passionate about, learning isn’t a chore. You won’t have to force yourself to pull out the textbooks, and even the toughest assignments won’t get you down. On the other hand, if you’re enrolled in a program that doesn’t really interest you, every speed bump will feel like a mountain.
So make sure that you truly want to be doing what you’re doing.
2. Make a schedule (and stick to it!)
It can be very easy—dangerously easy—to put things off for tomorrow. As an independent learner, procrastination is your worst enemy. It doesn’t take very many “I’ll just do it tomorrow”s for your pile of assignments to get overwhelmingly high.
The best way to avoid the temptation is to create a study schedule.
A good blended-learning program will have make it very clear what needs to be done, and give you an idea of how long it will take. For instance, our students are given a detailed checklist of readings and assignments that they have to complete for their next class, and know that it will take 20-25 hours per week to complete. It’s a good idea to sit down each week or each month and block off times that you will dedicate to working on specific tasks. Break your assignments down into smaller chunks and everything will be more manageable and less stressful.
3. Remember: you’re not actually on your own
Just because you’re not in class, doesn’t mean there aren’t people to help you! Your fellow students are an incredible asset both academically and emotionally. Remember that you’re all in this together. Having study partners or a regular homework group will help you understand the material and stay on schedule, and will help you feel connected. Your classmates are also great sounding boards when you have to vent!
And of course, your instructors will be there for you. A good school will not only make sure that you have all the material you need to get your work done outside of class, but will make sure instructors and staff are available to answer your questions.
As you can see, with a little preparation and support independent study isn’t so scary after all! All it takes is good planning and a positive attitude.
What are your best strategies and study tips for independent learning? Let us know in the comments!