Online college degrees make it easier for busy working adults and non-traditional students to complete their education. Many traditional students also find the online format to be liberating as they pursue work and school at the same time. Yet how do you stay motivated in online classes? When you don’t have a professor in a classroom making sure you’re getting everything done, and when you’re studying from home where other distractions surround you, what can you do to keep up the hard work? These eight tips will help build motivation for online students so they can succeed—even with a non-traditional path of study.
1. Set a Schedule
One of the easiest ways to get off track is to try to guess when you’ll have time to do the work. Instead, set up a schedule of when you will work on school and when you will take care of your other responsibilities. Of course, one of the benefits of online education is the ability to be flexible, so be willing to adjust the schedule if need be, but plan specific times each day to take care of schoolwork. When you have a set schedule, you’ll find yourself more motivated to log in and get the work done.
When planning your schedule, make it visual if you can. When you get your syllabus, write out your deadlines, exams, and projects on a calendar that you can see at a glance. If it works better for you, use an online calendar that will send alerts to your email or your phone so you can stay on top of your coursework. This will help you work ahead if you have a big project coming and find yourself with some extra free time.
2. Create a Study Area
Working on schoolwork from home is a perk of an online education, but it can also be a drawback because you’re surrounded by comfortable, familiar objects. Sprawling out on the couch or your bed does not lead to good study habits. One of the best tips for maintaining your motivation for study while at home is having a dedicated space for your coursework.
Set up an area in your home with a desk and good lighting. Put your laptop and schoolbooks in this area. Stock it with pens, pencils, and paper. When it’s time to study or log on for your schoolwork, your study area will be ready. Try to place this area away from the television or other major distractions in your home. The quieter your study area, the better.
3. Give Yourself a Deadline
If your course has open deadlines, you may quickly fall behind. You won’t be able to complete all papers, projects, and exams by the final deadline, so give yourself “mini deadlines” to motivate and mark your progress throughout the semester. Deadlines can be very motivating, so give yourself some to attain.
4. Create Rewards
When you reach one of your deadlines, whether you impose it on yourself or your professors created it, give yourself a reward when you succeed. An ice cream break, streaming a favorite movie, or a night out with friends can all be very motivating. By knowing that reward is coming, you will find yourself with increased motivation. Make sure the rewards are something you’re willing to work for. Don’t give in until you reach the goal.
5. Strive for Balance
Burnout is real for all college students and taking classes online does not make you immune to it. To stay motivated and avoid this real risk, you must strive to keep a balance between your personal life, work, and school. This isn’t always easy to do, especially when school takes place at home. It’s easy to find yourself always studying, which quickly destroys your passion for your work.
Scheduling will help with this balance, as will having a dedicated space for school, but it’s going to take continued effort to maintain balance. Remember to give yourself permission to relax and spend time with friends or family to avoid burnout and stay motivated.
6. State Your Goal
When you have moments where motivation is slipping, having a goal to cling to can help significantly. Write your goal down, whether it is to get a promotion at work or to begin a new career. Then, every time your motivation starts to falter, look at the goal to give yourself a motivational boost. This is a surprisingly effective strategy.
Consider making a visual representation of your goal to hang in your study area. Vision boards are highly motivating and keep your goal at the forefront of your mind. They provide a constant and gentle reminder of what you’re working toward achieving.
7. Take Breaks
If you’re feeling burnout coming, take some breaks. It can feel counterproductive to take breaks when you’re dealing with a big load of coursework, but it can be important for your mental health. It can also do much to improve your motivation. An afternoon off from school to do something you enjoy can refresh your energy so you’re ready to tackle the work again the next day. Taking breaks can actually make you work more productively after the break, making it a wise move when you’re lacking the motivation to get your work done.
8. Find Ways to Connect with Other Students
If you are near your university’s campus, find ways to meet with your fellow students outside of the classroom. If you aren’t, spend time in online chat rooms or find a local group of college students from another university you can meet with on occasion. Spending time with others who are also pursuing their degrees can help you stay motivated to stay the course.
If you feel that the flexibility of an online degree program is a good fit for your needs, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a robust list of online MBA courses to choose from. Reach out to an admissions counselor to learn more about expanding your career potential through our campus Flexible MBA and 100% Online MBA programs.