Motivation and online study

Strategies to help you maintain focus and direction.

Motivation allows us to overcome obstacles. It is the force that keeps us going in the face of difficulties and drives us to achieve our goals.

Most students’ self-motivation starts out high at the beginning of a course or term, but this may dip at certain points and that’s perfectly normal. Motivation can be particularly challenging for online learners, so it's important to be able to recognise when this is happening and implement strategies to regain focus and direction.

Know what motivates you

What is important to you? What do you value? If these things are lacking in your course you may find it difficult to maintain enthusiasm and motivation for your studies, so it’s important to build these factors into your study program.

For example, if you value working with others, make sure you have the opportunity to engage in academic discussions with your colleagues.

Generally, people are motivated by doing something that they enjoy, working with people they like, engaging in something that is challenging, and completing something rewarding.

Know what demotivates you

If you find your motivation is falling, try to identify why. This will help you to take control and develop some strategies to help you manage your situation.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Academic goals

  • Are they the same as when you first started?
  • Are they realistic?
  • Can you measure progress towards your goals?

Study routine

  • Do you have an effective study routine?
  • Is your work environment distracting?

Support systems

  • Is your tutor providing helpful feedback?
  • Have you connected with your peers in the course?
  • Do your family and friends support you in your study requirements?
  • Are you having technical issues that need to be fixed?

Other life influences

  • Are there any aspects of your work life, personal life or health that might need attention?

Use strategies to maintain focus

Set and review goals

  • Set short, medium and long-term goals: these help break up coursework into ‘chunks of work’ that you can more easily complete.
  • Track progress towards your goals: know how your studies are progressing – focus on how much you’re learning or how your assignments are developing, rather than grades.
  • Celebrate your achievements.

Study effectively

  • Take regular breaks. This will help you concentrate and give your eyes a rest.
  • Minimise distractions. Switch your phone to 'Do Not Disturb' mode and make yourself focus for a full 30 minutes before checking it.
  • Find a great study space. This will help you feel more relaxed and comfortable in your learning environment, which can lead to greater focus.
  • Stock up on snacks. Having some healthy snacks on hand can help you to stay put and concentrate for longer.

Manage your time effectively

  • Try to develop a routine. Using planners can help you map out your week and develop good study habits. Don’t forget to include both personal and study commitments.
  • Aim for balance in your life. Your emotional and social lives continue, family and employers make demands and new interests arise. Make sure you leave time to do the things that you enjoy.

Connect with your peers and tutors

  • Studying online can feel isolating at times and without face- to-face contact you can’t always gauge how others in your course are feeling. However, if you can connect with your peers, you’re likely to find that they’re facing similar challenges to you. Together you can share strategies and tips.
  • Keeping in contact with your tutors is also important for motivation. They can help you to understand what’s expected and provide support and guidance.

Minimise technical issues

  • Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and be careful of data allowances when studying from a mobile device.
  • Make sure you have all the equipment you need, e.g. headphones, microphone etc.
  • If you think something online isn't working, always check in another browser.
  • Become familiar with the IT support services available at the university and be patient with technical glitches.

Seek out and accept support

  • Use support services. Part of being a successful student is being able to find the resources you need to help you with your studies.
  • Share your experiences with the people who matter to you. Keep them up to date and let them know when and how they can help.
  • Pay attention to your physical, emotional and spiritual health. It is a long journey to a graduate degree, so ensure you are healthy enough to last the distance.

Final Tip

Get a good start! Sometimes little things can de-rail the best of intentions, so it’s important to set yourself up for success and minimise any potential distractors or annoyances early on.

It’s completely normal for your motivation to change over the course of your studies, or even vary between subjects. If you notice this happening try to implement a few of the strategies above to help you get back on track.

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