Online Learning

6 Practical Study Tips for Online Learning Students


Enrol today >

Advance your career with a 100% online professional qualification.


Many students can experience a bit of a shock when they move from traditional learning in a classroom into online learning.

The two learning formats can seem similar on the surface, but when you experience online learning first-hand you’ll discover it calls for a particular set of skills that differ slightly from classroom-based study.

Don’t panic though – we’ve done the heavy lifting and gathered some of our favourite practical study tips when it comes to learning online. Here are 6 practical study tips for online learning students that you can use to make your study smarter, more productive and fun!

1. Prioritise with the Pomodoro method!


Juggling assignments can make studying difficult but there are numerous strategies around to help you get a grip on it. The famous Pomodoro method is one of them!

Following the Pomodoro method can be a useful way to prioritise tasks and improve your productivity when studying. This method takes its name from the humble tomato timer that was once a fixture of kitchens around the world when the process was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s – Pomodoro means tomato in Italian.

The basic idea behind it is that we work best when we mix short periods of concentrated focus with short breaks. You basically break a study section into short sections, punctuated by regular breaks.

There are 6 steps to the Pomodoro method:


  1. Choose a task to be completed (eg. studying a learning module, or part of a module)
  2. Set a timer for around 25 minutes
  3. Work
  4. Stop work when you hear the timer go off. Take a short break of around 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. You’ve just completed one ‘pomodoro’. Repeat the process until you’ve completed three sets.
  6. After you’ve done three pomodoros, you can take a longer break of around 20 to 30 minutes.


Many people swear by the Pomodoro when it comes to improving their focus. Play around with it and see what works best for you.


2. Schedule study in advance


The human brain likes order and routine. Routines give us an unconscious sense of stability and structure, so creating a study schedule is a good idea if you want to improve your online study.

The basic science behind why routines work is pretty simple. You perform a series of actions in a particular order and that gets you the results you want, making you feel positive. This feeling of achievement encourages you to try the process again, resulting in positive reinforcement – you repeat the task because the end result makes you feel good. Over time, this becomes a routine.

One line of scientific thought suggests that routines help to simplify your response to a situation, freeing up valuable processing space in your brain that you can redirect to other areas. As a result, you might find the task easier to complete.

You can go about creating a study schedule in a number of ways. Here are some basic tips to help you:


  • Find the time of the day that you work best and stick to it
  • Create and work towards achievable goals
  • Find your preferred learning style
  • Create consistency in your schedule


3. Try to get rid of distractions


We’ve all been there. We sit down to finish that chapter, tackle that assignment or revise that module and our attention just keeps getting diverted away. Our phones keep buzzing. Our Facebook notifications keep going off. Our emails keep pinging.

Admittedly, when you’re studying online, and you’ve got a world of information, videos and social media at your fingertips, it can be very difficult not to get distracted. That obviously can have a serious impact on your productivity. One experiment completed by Cyrus Foroughi, a doctoral student at the Applied Performance Research Lab at George Mason University, found evidence that suggested getting distracted in the middle of completing a task directly affected how well you completed it. In other words, getting distracted affects the quality of your response to a task.

If you’re looking to improve the quality of your studying sessions, eliminating distractions is the right strategy to pick. Some practical ways that you can manage distractions include doing things like:

  • Switching your phone off, or at least turning it to silent, whilst you’re studying. Sometimes, putting it in another room or in a drawer can help too!
  • Installing a website blocker to temporarily limit your access to sites that distract you, like Facebook or YouTube (this article has a great run-down of web blockers to choose from).




4. Reward yourself

One study by academics Gerhard Furtmüller, Christian Garaus, and Wolfgang H. Güttel, cited in the Harvard Business Review, found that offering small rewards periodically helped to motivate students who were studying online. Adopting the same approach for yourself could help to motivate your own online study.

That isn’t to say that you should go bananas on the rewards though – the same study also found that having large, regular rewards diminished the motivational effect.

Here’s a practical process to follow when it comes to using rewards to boost your study:


  1. Set a simple goal
  2. Choose a small reward: eg. a bar of chocolate, a video game, a book – whatever brings you joy!
  3. Set some rules about when you’ll access the reward: eg. “I can have this chocolate bar when I’ve made notes on this chapter”
  4. Complete your task and take your reward!


5. Discover your learning style – and take it into account

Everybody has their own unique way of learning, known as a learning style. There are seven different styles that people use to learn. They are:


  • Visual: You learn best with images and by processing information visually
  • Aural: You learn best by listening to information be delivered orally, like lectures, seminars or recordings
  • Verbal: You learn best through writing and with words – whether spoken or written
  • Logical: You learn best through reasoning and using logic to approach a situation
  • Social: You learn best by working with others and in group settings
  • Physical: You learn best by using your hands and by physical action
  • Solitary: You learn best on your own rather than with others


Do you see any traits on the list that you think match your learning style? It isn’t necessarily a case of you being one learning style or the other – you can have multiple elements from different styles.

Finding out the styles that best match your learning styles and trying to adapt them to your study routine can help you improve the effectiveness of your learning.


6. Take regular breaks 

If you’ve got a lot of work to do, and you’ve got upcoming plans, it can be really tempting to throw yourself into the task and pull an all-nighter. That’s a recipe for mental health disaster in the long-term though, opening yourself to exhaustion and burn-out if you’re not careful.

It sounds obvious, but it bears repeating – breaks are essential when it comes to giving your mind a rest. The science is indisputable. Your brain is an incredible thing but it’s only human after all, and you will get tired. By pacing yourself and taking regular breaks you’ll be able to recharge your brain power and devote it to the areas of your study that really need it.

In conclusion, we hope that these practical tips have helped you think about how you can improve your own online learning practice. No matter how hard things get, always remember that there’s a study tip out there to help you get to grips with the situation.


Develop your career today with a professional qualification that you can study completely online. Get your free course guide and start your journey today.



It’s time to build your career.

Request your guide to getting qualified online in HR, accountancy, project management, GCSEs and more.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Learn how we keep your data private