Overcoming Obstacles to Online Learning: Staying Motivated

Unlike on-campus learning, online education does not require students to “report” to class, meet face-to-face with professors and students, or participate in school functions. For many, this is the obvious appeal of going to school online. We can work on our own schedule and “go to” class in our pajamas at midnight if that’s when we need to. Whether this situation is ideal/appealing for us or not, it is likely that most of us have struggled with the lack of structure and need for personal accountability to get work done.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have found particular challenges to motivation recently. Not only do I work full time, own my own photography business, and have a family to care for—I am pregnant. The desire to sleep when I get a free moment is much greater these days than my desire to get schoolwork done. On more than one occasion, I have sat on the couch, looked at my husband like a lost puppy and whined, “I don’t wanna be in school anymore!” Certainly, such a sentiment is not based on reality, as I am only a few weeks from graduating, but the threat to my motivation is very real.

Whether you are dealing with a busy schedule or just struggling to find the desire or initiative to read textbooks and complete assignments, here are some tips to help keep you motivated in school:

  1. Chart your progress and celebrate little victories. For some, just counting down the time until your goal is reached can be rewarding—saying to yourself, “I have come this far, only ___ months/weeks to go!” As you successfully complete courses and finish difficult tests or papers, take time to reward yourself. Whether you celebrate by taking a night off for fun or buying yourself something you’ve wanted, enjoying your progress can help motivate you to keep chugging along!
  2. Create a schedule that is realistic for your life and that you can stick to. You know what you can handle better than anyone else, so only put on your ‘plate’ what you can take on. I suggest making a list of priorities and noting what tasks must be done before others—If preparing for a work meeting on Wednesday takes precedence over an essay due Sunday, by all means, prepare for the meeting and focus on the essay afterward, rather than trying to make yourself do both.
  3. Make time for the other things in your life. Stephen King makes a point when he states that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” When we overwhelm our lives with obligations and work, leaving little time for rest, relaxation, and recreation, we will most likely experience disillusion, exhaustion, and feeling ‘burnt-out.’ So, go for a walk, watch a movie, or make plans to go out with your friends at least once a week!
  4. Involve family and friends. Social support is essential for many people to attain goals and succeed in their endeavors. Not only can family or friends provide moral support and assistance, they can also help take on other obligations in life that will free you up to focus on school when necessary. I know that, without my husband’s assistance at home, I would never be able to do any schoolwork! And, who doesn’t love a personal cheerleader rooting you on!
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