Fitting online study into a busy life
Online study has opened up a wealth of opportunities for learning that in the past would not have been possible. Now, you no longer need to limit yourself to a course within an easy distance from your home or work out whether it is practical to move. Instead, a quick internet search will reveal a wealth of courses on a subject that interests you at a level that is appropriate. As well as being convenient, many of these courses are of a high quality, run by top institutions, and easily rival anything that in-person learning can offer.
However, while online study does make gaining qualifications more accessible, there are still challenges involved to make it work. Online study requires a commitment to achieve success, and this may seem tricky. Many people are unable to give up work to undertake study and so need to fit it in around their work commitments. Others might have family commitments that take up their time, and many will be doing both. Additionally, there might be social commitments, and on top of that you will want some time to relax or enjoy a favorite pastime. However, even in a busy life, there are ways to carve out the time needed for study and to successfully gain the qualifications you need to advance your career.
Good time management
Good time management is key to fitting in study time. It’s a good idea to look at this before you even enroll on the course. If you create a timetable of your normal week, you will be able to see when you have time to study.
It is important to be realistic on this. You will still need to eat and sleep, so it is not a good idea to timetable study time all night and expect to be able to function at work the next day. However, you should be able to identify sometimes when you can study effectively. Perhaps after work, you usually simply watch TV all evening. This is time that could instead be devoted to study, while still enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. If you are raising a family, maybe your child naps at a certain time each afternoon or they’re in daycare three mornings a week. This is also time you can set aside for online study. With this in mind, you can work out how much time you can realistically devote to study and can choose an appropriate course.
Unlike in-person courses that need to follow a strict schedule, there is often some flexibility built into online courses. You can usually choose your own study times, allowing you to complete it in the evening, at weekends, or early in the morning if that is what suits you best. There is usually also a fair amount of flexibility in how long it takes you to complete the course and so it is up to you to work out how urgently you need the qualification.
For those wanting a degree or post-graduate course quickly, you will need to devote considerable time to your online study and will need to make the required adjustments to your schedule – for example, taking a leave of absence from work, or at least going part-time or waiting until your children start school so that you have considerable time free for studying. However, if you do not need the qualification quickly, it is often possible to take the course at a much slower pace, so your weekly commitment is much less.
A good example of this can be seen at Aston University, which offers an online DBA through part-time study. Depending on your availability, it takes four to six years to qualify and uses a variety of teaching methods from podcasts to virtual message boards and video conferences, as well as providing you with an academic supervisor to support you throughout the course. For those people keen to complete a course without a massive amount of available time, studying over a longer period is a good way to fit it all in, while still reaching the required level for the qualification you want.
Ask for help
Study does not last forever and you should not be afraid to ask for help to manage everything for the duration of your course. Perhaps your spouse could undertake more of the cooking, domestic chores and childcare duties, or if finances allow, you could employ someone to manage these while you study. You may have friends or relatives who will be happy to look after your children over a weekend while you complete assignments. At work, tell your employers your plans. It may be in their interests to gain a better qualified employee, and they may be happy to make some adjustments to your work that gives you more time for study.
Shorter periods of focused study are likely to be more productive than longer periods of interrupted learning. Choosing a place to study where you will not be disturbed is important. At home, a quiet, designated study space is ideal. Choose a spot where you will not hear a television or the chatter of family and where you have the space to set out your study materials. If space does not permit this in your home, then consider studying elsewhere, such as at a public library.
If you are studying at home at a time when family are around, make sure that they know not to disturb you, and while studying, put your phone on silent so that you are not tempted to take calls or check messages. Use your breaks wisely to catch up with friends and family, while making sure that your designated study time is for that alone.
The thought of online study while maintaining other commitments can seem daunting, but it will be easier than the more rigid life of attending classes in person. Research courses carefully to be sure of enrolling on one that meets your requirements, and with support, flexibility and good time management, gaining your dream qualification will likely be far more easily achievable than you think.