College, whether at a traditional university or an online degree program, involves lots of reading and digesting facts, concepts, and statistics. While you often have facts at your fingertips when you're online, retaining entire concepts can be difficult, especially when it feels like you've been reading forever.
Besides, the material you’re covering is meant to be absorbed so you can use it in the workplace later.
Reading, writing, listening, speaking, and other forms of feedback help us phrase and re-phrase the materials we’re studying, coding them into our brains more strongly. And online learning environments are increasingly finding creative ways to tap in to multiple learning styles as they present course materials, with videos, games, and interactive tasks to complete.
When you have short, sharp facts you need to memorize, using mnemonics, or memory aids, can help. Biv” or “My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Up Nine Planets” stands for?
Acronyms or rhymes can help you break information down into little chunks that are easier to retrieve than a long piece of information such as “the list of colors in the visible spectrum” or “the planets of the solar system, in orbit order from the sun”.
If you’re panicking about an imminent assignment, essay, or exam, you’re less likely to perform as well.
It’s better to plan regular study sessions in advance—not just when you’re going to study, but what you’re going to study.
Committing to focus on a specific issue gets you mentally prepared to pay attention to what’s most relevant about that topic, and that topic only. Even if you are unusually diligent and disciplined, you have a breaking point.
Once you pass it, your brain (and likely body) will become fatigued, and a fatigued brain isn’t going to retain an awful lot. Just make sure you use a timer to limit your breaks, too, so that “five minutes” of checking Facebook doesn’t become an hour.
Breaking your study session into periods with a timer, and taking a short break between them, could help you rest your mind for a few minutes. People learn in different ways—what Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner called “multiple intelligences”.
Pacing like this may prolong your ability to be effective over the long term while you study. Some people are “visual” learners, others “auditory” or “linguistic” or “hands-on”.