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5 Tips For Staying Motivated While Studying Online

by Kelly Walsh on January 25, 2012


With the continued growth of online education, the challenge of staying motivated in self-directed study is something more students struggle with. Here’s a few tips to help.

Guest post from Amanda Tradwick.

Taking courses online provides flexibility for a wide range of students. Working adults can balance the demands of study with other commitments such as career and family through flexible adult degree programs. Students with different learning styles can create their own program of study. Those with financial difficulties can take classes part-time while working to pay for tuition.

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While the flexibility of online study creates these options for many students, it can also lead to lost focus and struggles with motivation. Online study is primarily self-directed, and finding ways to stay motivated is key to success. These ideas can help you stick with it for the long haul.

1. Set a Realistic Schedule
Excitement over beginning a program of study can cause some students to set big goals and to take on more than they can handle. It can become easy to schedule more classes and more commitments than can reasonably be managed, causing feelings of being overwhelmed that can cause you to give up. In order to stay focused and motivated, you need to create a more realistic schedule of tasks that can actually be completed in the time allotted. Completing these small goals will create a sense of accomplishment that will inspire you to keep working.

2. Take Breaks
All work and no play makes Jack a very unmotivated boy. You need to give yourself a breather every now and then so that you can are focused and energized when it’s time to study. Schedule time for activities that you enjoy so that you can get a break from intense work and so you can have something to look forward to in your schedule. Knowing that you can enjoy a movie or a night out with friends guilt-free if you finish your project can motivate you to keep going and to finish more quickly.

3. Become Social
Studying online can be isolating for many students. You don’t see your instructor or your classmates every day like you would in a traditional classroom. You can help bridge this gap by interacting with your instructor and your classmates in other ways — through online discussion forums, video conferencing, and phone calls. Build an online support community to help you connect to others who are going through a similar experience. You can get inspiration and support from one another by talking about ideas, offering each other study tips, and more.

4. Make Connections
Sometimes, it can seem like you’re studying in a vacuum. Passing a test can seem like a means unto itself. It can be difficult to keep in mind how what you’re doing will lead to real-world results, such as the type of job you will have or the type of lifestyle you will be able to provide for your family. Find motivation by connecting what you’re studying to what you will be doing once you graduate. Learn about how what you’re studying connects to what is happening currently in your field, how it is used by working professionals, and more. Don’t let your studies be limited by the classroom.

5. Review Goals
Why did you decide to get your degree? What made you choose the field you are studying? Why did you elect to take your courses online rather than in a traditional classroom setting? Remembering the answers to these questions can help you stay motivated in your studies. Regularly review your personal goals to remember why you are doing what you are doing. This can help you remember that you aren’t studying for this test just to pass a class, but that you are doing it because you are passionate about becoming a designer, or because you want to be a role model for your children, or because you want to prove to yourself that you can meet the challenge.

Finding ways to stay motivated while you are studying for your degree online is critical to your academic success. Setting a realistic schedule, making time for fun, keeping your goals in mind, and finding support can all help you to stay motivated when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your studies.

About the author: Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on grants and scholarships and applying for college grants.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Online Schooling and The Democratization of Education
The Changing Dynamic of Online Education
Understanding Tutoring Options And Finding A Great Tutor


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anthony May 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I think one good motivation factor is to know the kind of future one wants to have. For example, if you are going to get a course in IT, then think of the job opportunities that you will get when you finish your online education. That alone can be a good motivation reminder.

Wayne January 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Great tips! Sometimes taking courses online can take an extra dose of patience and motivation. Even with the best study tips it can be hard to stay focused.

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