Inside the mind of an online learner
Jane McGuire

Inside the mind of an online learner

What's it like being an online learner

First published date May 11 2016 Amended date May 11 2016

I started out with every good intention, logging in to do the online part of the TEFL course I had spent a whole weekend completing. Yet, a year later, I must ashamedly admit, I’m still no closer to completing the course.

When it comes to online learning, we all talk about the high drop-out rate compared to the classroom based alternative. Yet despite spending my days here at Hotcourses, writing about all things education, I have also fallen into this category. I know, shame on me. Therefore, in an attempt to make things slightly better, I bring you the five things I learnt, so you can be sure online learning is for you before you add that course to your basket.


1. You have to really want it

An obvious place to start, but you have to want to do it. When I sat in a warm classroom for a whole weekend in July, I was engaged, I was ready to learn and I was sure I wanted that TEFL qualification under my belt. Yet when I was back to my busy day to day life, other things became a priority. In simple terms, if you are thinking of taking an online course for fun, be sure you are interested enough to finish it.


2. You’ll find the time if you make it a priority

Another big downfall for me – I didn’t make my learning a priority. The benefits of a classroom course are that you have a designated time, in your diary, every single week when you know you will be learning. When it comes to the online alternative, you need to be as strict or you won’t succeed. It’s easy to say you’ll do it on your commute, or in your lunchbreaks, but scheduling time to learn is vital if you want to avoid joining me in the dropout club.

Alternatively, if you are doing an online course to gain a qualification that will help you at work, ask your employer for an afternoon off a week to study. Putting time aside to learn can be difficult, but it will be worth it in the long run.


3. There’s a lot of help available, should you need it

Despite my job, I’m a self-confessed technophobe, yet even I managed to log in, view my course modules and understand where I should submit my assessments. What’s more, there was a lovely support team on the end of the phone and email to answer all my stupid questions along the way.

One of the most common fears when it comes to online learning is losing that interaction and guidance from your tutor. However, from experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although you never meet face to face, you definitely know they are there should you need them.


4. Your surroundings really do matter

I think it’s fair to say, unless you have incredible concentration skills, learning at home when there’s loads going on around you is impossible. My best advice for those hoping to gain a qualification online? Set up your study space carefully. Take yourself to the library, lock yourself in your bedroom, or minimise distractions in order to give yourself the best chance.


5. Just because one course doesn’t work, doesn’t mean the next one wont

Although I have accepted I probably will never complete my TEFL course, I knew I had to give online learning another chance, so signed up to a course of yoga courses, taught solely through recordings. I’m happy to report, I have absolutely loved my iPad yoga sessions and enjoy the flexibility of not having to fit my lessons around a gym timetable.

My point here is that if one type of learning doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean no course ever will. There are plenty of ways to learn, so don’t be put off if drop out of one and log into another.  

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.