Four Ways to Stay Motivated in Online Learning

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One of the most rewarding parts of being an online learner is the freedom to learn anywhere, any time. However, it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with a learning environment that requires time management skills and self-discipline. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay motivated in online learning that will ensure success all semester long. Let’s take a look at some tips:

Set Realistic Goals

Setting goals is a great way to stay motivated in online learning. However, aiming too high can be the fastest road to disappointment. Make your goal-setting more impactful by creating SMART goals. A SMART goal is a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

The objective is to set yourself up for success by utilizing smaller targets along the way to your goal. For every target you meet, you are one step closer to reaching your ultimate goal. For example, let’s say you have a project due at the end of the month. Your goal is to meet that deadline. You plan to spend 1 hour on that project every day until it is done. For a more in-depth explanation on SMART goals, check out this video by Charles Duhigg.

Additionally, at ASU Prep Digital, you’ll be paired with a Learning Success Coach who can help you create and manage your goals and offer support all semester long.

Create An Environment That Keeps You Focused

With online learning, the world is your classroom—your favorite coffee shop, local library or your living room couch.

Pick an environment that’s conducive to your learning style and will promote productivity. Avoid crowded places if you’re easily distracted. Ditch your couch if you’ll be too tempted by the tv remote. Some of the most productive learning environments are those that create a clear separation between work and play. Therefore, getting away from your room or house may be key to making the most of your time as a student.

Consider visiting your public library, obtaining a membership to a co-working space or finding a coffee shop that offers relatively quiet and comfortable seating. Most importantly, once you find the place that works for you, create a routine of going back.

Take A Break

It might seem counter intuitive, but sometimes the best way to stay motivated in online learning is to hit the pause button.

In a study by psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, groups of participants were observed as they performed a repetitive task for an hour. Over time, they became increasingly unfocused due to our brain’s adapted ability to fade out awareness during prolonged stimulation. Lleras found that, with a short interval of rest, participants who received these breaks were much more effective at staying focused throughout the task.

You can apply this to your learning experience by taking intermittent breaks from your work. Even if it’s just five minutes, step away from your computer and enjoy an activity that puts you at ease, like petting your dog, meditating or listening to music. When you come back to the task, you’ll have renewed clarity and focus. To learn more about Professor Lleras study, check it out here.

Reward Your Hard Work

Positive reinforcement has been a well-known method for encouraging behavior since B.F. Skinner popularized it through his studies. Apply this psychological approach to your studies by rewarding your effort and accomplishments afterwards. So the next time you finish a project ahead of schedule, celebrate! Share your accomplishment with friends and family, buy that pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on, or simply use your extra time to relax at home. Visit Psychology Today to learn more about positive reinforcement.

At ASU Prep Digital, we love celebrating our student’s accomplishments. Check out our student spotlight of Olivia Bolles, an ASU Prep Digital student who embodies all of traits of a successful online learner and even shares some helpful tips on staying motivated!


Online learning is tremendously rewarding in the freedom it offers students, but with that freedom comes the need for discipline and self-motivation. In times when these skills are tested, rely on the above tactics to keep yourself on track during your online learning experience.

Looking for more insight on being successful in online learning? Check out these blog posts: