August 27, 2018  |  Purdue University Global

Ask anyone who’s pursuing a college degree online and they will tell you that the work is rigorous, requires excellent time-management skills, and involves a significant amount of discipline.

Still, more than 6 million Americans take at least one college class online, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and nearly 3 million of those go to college exclusively online.

That’s because, despite the substantial amount of motivation needed to be successful, online learning has numerous benefits. The convenience and flexibility allow you to study any time and just about anywhere you have an internet connection. This makes it an ideal solution for working adults and those with family obligations.

If you’re taking classes online and need a little help in the self-discipline department, keep reading. We’re highlighting several tips for staying motivated while you go to college online.

Develop the Mindset that YOU are in Charge of Your Education

Self-Motivation and the Online Learner

Turns out, Ford was right. Decades later, studies by Stanford University professor Albert Bandura and others established that students who believed in their own abilities were more successful academically than those who did not.

One of the best ways to develop an empowering mindset is to practice positive self-talk. The idea is to talk to yourself in confident, affirming ways. Psychology Today, NPR, and University of Pennsylvania all cite studies supporting the idea that positive thinking helps create success.

Need help getting started? Tell yourself:

  • I am excited to attend college online and earn my degree. This is a fantastic opportunity, and I am rising to the challenge.
  • No one is going to do this for me, and that’s OK—I can do a great job with my coursework by working hard and being diligent.
  • It’s not easy, but I can balance work, school, and life. I’m doing it!

Do These 3 Things Regularly

Log in. This is the first step to success. You can’t look for course updates, contribute to class discussions, or complete assignments if you don’t at least log in to your online classroom. Get in the habit of doing so regularly.

Communicate with your teachers. Any reputable online school will encourage students to communicate with faculty and provide several ways to do so, such as email, discussion boards, chat room office hours, and even text messaging (for some teachers).

Ask for help when you need it. Open communication helps you develop a rapport with teachers and pave the way if you have questions down the line. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Faculty and staff want to help you succeed.

Self-Motivation and the Online Learner

Block Off Times for Studying Each Week

Self-Motivation and the Online Learner

Create a reasonable study schedule and stick to it. Look at your commitments at the onset of each week and determine your obligations for coursework/study time, work, and family for that week. Block off time to meet each obligation and schedule this time as appointments on your calendar, and then keep your appointments.

Having a consistent workspace is a good idea, too.

Use Time Management Techniques

  • Identify your time wasters (social media, texting, purposeless web browsing) and vow not to participate when you should be studying.
  • Do one thing at a time; research shows that multitasking slows you down and may even lower your IQ temporarily.
  • Break large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Need a little more help in this area? Get more time management tips for college students. Or, watch the TED-Ed video, in which bestselling author Brian Christian provides time management insights gleaned from computer science.

Focus on Your Long-Term Goal…

Remember why you’re doing this: the degree, the greater career opportunities, the ability to take life in the direction you want to go. Write down your reasons, too. There’s a neuroscientific explanation as to why writing down your reasons actually helps you achieve your goals.

…But Also Set Short-Term Goals and Reward Yourself for Meeting Them

Passed Intro to Biology? Wrapped up that big project with an A? Celebrate with something that makes you feel good. Rewarding yourself helps keep you motivated.

Connect With Other Students

Self-Motivation and the Online Learner

Class discussion boards, Facebook groups, and other online tools and resources help you connect with a community of like-minded online learners. You can share your common struggles, get new perspectives, and support each other.

How Do You Stay Motivated?

If it’s working, keep doing it!

Purdue University Global is dedicated to helping you achieve your career goals. Learn about our academic support and the numerous career resources we offer.


About the Author

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 180 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.


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