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Student Stories

Student Stories

Blogs and vlogs from students of the University of Edinburgh

Getting into studying online…

Image of a laptop leaning against a stack of books
Reading Time: 3 minutes

…by Aurelia / from the UK / studying MSc International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law / Postgraduate Online Learner

Getting started with your studies can feel like an overwhelming time, this can be more difficult if you are studying an online course as you wont have a physical classroom or the same kind of timetable to help you get into the swing of things. This can be a challenge whether you are a new student or a continuing one coming back to study after the summer break. But don’t be put off! There are some easy tactics you can try to make it easier to get going.


Even if you don’t have a timetable of lectures to get you started, there are still useful resources to help you structure your studies. It’s useful to look at any live sessions that are planned for your module. Attending live sessions helps to give you benchmarks for your studies, and the feel of a classroom. They will help supplement any recorded lectures and reading you are assigned for that week, and can be supported by discussion boards.

Do they fall in the time you have available for study? If so, great! Get signed up for them and put them in a calendar or diary.

The next thing you can plan for is deadlines. You should be able to see when your assignments are due. You may not want to read the brief in detail straight away, as this can be scary before you have go into the first week of work. But it’s worth popping those dates in the diary and checking whether they are going to conflict with anything else. That way you know how early you need to get started.

Check for Actions

Check to see if there are any activities requiring action. This may be on a “Base” module, or in your first academic module. There could be policies to read and mark as having done so, and opportunities to introduce yourself to your classmates. These are nice simple activities to get you started and used to navigating the Learn website. Personally they also help me feel I have taken control of my studies and “broken the ice” on the start.

Break it Down

Your studies are undoubtedly going to be a big commitment and a serious task. But you don’t have to tackle whole modules at a time. You’ll probably find that your module has a welcome page, I always find it soothing to read through this and get a feel for the course as a whole, then take a look at the weekly breakdown.

When your first week is made available, you’ll want to start thinking about how much is being asked of you that week. For me, I like to look at the recorded lectures first. How many are there? How long are they? Would it benefit me to watch them before any live sessions take place?

Then I will go to the reading list. How much essential reading is there? I tend to open these in new tabs straight away so they are ready for me to dive into, then I can close them when they are done. Almost like ticking them off! Then it’s worth looking at the recommended and further reading; does anything jump out at you? Are there any topics you feel you need to read more about after the lectures?

Study Skills

If you have been out of study for a while, or even just feel rusty after the summer, you might feel like some of your study skills are out of practice. That is totally normal, and a lot of them will probably brush up and develop naturally as you go along. But if you are concerned, check your “Base” module, if you have one, for signposting to further support. You may also have an “Academic Skills” type module automatically assigned on Learn. This is worth a look for general advice and points of contact, as well as occasional live sessions and recorded tutorials. Even if, when you get into the material, it all sounds familiar, it can be reassuring to remind yourself of best practice and basic principles.

These are just a few of the tips I can suggest from my own experience. You will want to tailor your techniques for studying online and self motivating to your own learning style, and of course to work around your other commitments if you are studying part time. If you find yourself starting to doubt, remember why you chose to study in the beginning! And don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.

Have a great term!


This blog was originally published on the ‘Chat to our students’ site here:

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