9 tips to maximize your online learning

5 min read


Flexibility and easy access are two of the main reasons for the tremendous growth in online learning. However, it can be difficult to stay motivated and productive when taking programs online, especially if you’re also juggling other responsibilities — such as a career and family. 

Next are nine ways to maximize your online learning experience and propel your career forward. This includes lessons I learned from  OpusVi and Duke CE’s Certificate in Nurse Leadership program.

1. Get enough sleep

Optimal productivity starts with a good night’s rest. In fact, research found that inadequate sleep leads to brain disturbances, including memory and learning impairment.

Commit to sleeping at least 7 to 9 hours every day. You can also improve your sleep hygiene by:

Sleeping on a comfortable mattress

Putting away or turning off backlit electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime

Minimizing caffeine intake

Practicing relaxing pre-sleep rituals such as journaling, meditation, and drinking tea

2. Eat well

A healthy diet can help you become more productive. One study concluded that adults who ate more fruits and vegetables experienced higher levels of curiosity and creativity. In contrast, foods rich in simple sugar — like candies, pastries, and soft drinks — have been linked to memory deficits.  

When it comes to your diet, try to make slight improvements that lead to sustained change. For instance, you can: 

Incorporate one leafy vegetable in your breakfast, lunch, or dinner

Pack lunch for work rather than eating out

Have healthy snacks with you when you´re on the go

3. Plan your week in advance 

It’s easier to execute your activities for the day if you plan your week beforehand. To begin, jot down the most crucial tasks for the week. If you’re having trouble prioritizing, start with the tasks that have deadlines approaching. If applicable, break up large tasks into smaller, actionable steps that can be tackled day by day.

Through the OpusVi and Duke CE’s online Certificate in Nurse Leadership course, I learned to plan for each week ahead of time. As a result, I was less anxious and less stressed about submitting work- and course-related assignments on time.

4. Take short breaks

When you’re working on an assignment or project for a long time, you may lose energy and the motivation to complete it. A short break may be all that you need. In fact, research shows that taking short breaks from a task actually improves the odds of finishing it. This finding is a core feature of the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management and study method. The Pomodoro technique involves taking 5-minute breaks after working on a task for at least 25 minutes. 

While enrolled in the Nurse Leadership program, I took advantage of the Pomodoro Technique, which helped me to avoid academic burnout. You may want to give this time-management strategy a try while on your learning journey.

5. Broaden your perspective by participating in discussion boards

Students are more likely to be satisfied with an online course if they interact frequently with other students. By actively participating in the weekly discussions, I gained new insights from my classmates — many of whom held diverse viewpoints. This enabled me to see things from their perspective and think outside of the box, including when seeking solutions to dilemmas at work. Along with helping me to overcome challenges that I was experiencing as a nurse leader, my classmates celebrated my successes with me — both big and small. 

As an active participant in your online course’s discussion board, you might find yourself surprised by the breadth of knowledge you’ve gleaned from your classmates. Your interaction with some of them may even extend beyond the discussion board, as you form genuine friendships with each other. 

6. Network with your classmates

While in OpusVi and Duke CE’s Certificate in Nurse Leadership program, I discovered that I shared several professional commonalities with some of my classmates, from nursing specialty to geographical location. Many of us realized that we could support each other by networking, sharing information about job opportunities, and providing tips on work-life balance. 

Consider asking your classmates if they would like to connect with you on social media, such as LinkedIn or Facebook. If they (or you) are not active on social media, you can keep in touch via traditional methods like phone or email. The key is to maintain a connection that allows you to support each other beyond course completion. 

7. Retain what you learn 

Not everyone retains information in the same manner. Therefore, to become a productive learner, you’ll need to know what information-retention system works best for you — such as watching videos and writing notes or performing mind mapping

Ideally, you should choose an online learning platform that leverages different teaching strategies, including your preferred approach. This will likely make it easier for you to retain information imparted during the course. For example, OpusVi’s online courses utilize multiple techniques to engage learners, including audio-visual learning tools and instructor feedback on assignments. 

Other ways to retain learning include: 

Explaining the concept to a friend or family member

Reading articles or books about the subject

Creating flashcards

Discussing the topic with your supervisor or mentor

8. Involve your team 

Let’s say you’re learning how to motivate team members. To apply this lesson in real life, share the strategies you learned with your supervisor and offer to lead projects relevant to this objective. By exhibiting this type of initiative, you will likely earn your supervisor’s and colleagues’ respect. Additionally, you will grow more confident in your ability to motivate others.

9. Remember your reason for taking the course

Keeping the reason for taking the course firmly in mind will help you stay motivated, even when tedium rears its mundane head. 

Maybe you’re continuing your education so that you can earn more money to take care of personal or family needs, or maybe you’d like to reach the pinnacle of your career. Whatever the reason, hold it close. As long as you don’t let go, it will guide you to the finish line.

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Kara-Marie Hall RN, BSN,CCRN


Kara-Marie Hall RN, BSN,CCRN


Kara-Marie Hall RN, BSN,CCRN

Kara-Marie Hall RN, BSN,CCRN, is a healthcare freelance writer who converts her expertise as a registered nurse into polished prose that engages healthcare professionals and patients. She is a proud member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Medical Writers Association. Kara-Marie’s interests include nursing leadership, health equity, and patient education. Her commitment to health and wellness stems from a deep desire to improve healthcare — one reader at a time. Currently, Kara-Marie resides in sunny Los Angeles, but calls her native Atlanta “home sweet home.” When she’s not working at the bedside or writing, she’s catching up on her favorite Spanish soap operas or volunteering with non-profits.