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A-Levels play a vital role in determining future success. Whilst not everyone needs to achieve A-levels to succeed, if you hope to pursue higher education or wish to follow certain career paths, then you will need to secure A-level qualifications.
The good news is that the growing popularity of online learning has made A-level courses accessible to everyone. According to the World Economic Forum, more than 20 million new learners registered for online learning courses in 2021. You can study for A-levels straight from school, or return to A-levels later in life to help you reskill and achieve new career or academic aspirations.
So how can you make the most of your online learning opportunity? And what skills and techniques do you need to ensure your online A-level studies are successful?
The purpose of this blog is to help those taking, or considering taking, online A-level courses to maximise the value of their study time and reach their goals. Here are some top tips for success:
Establishing a Structured Learning Routine
Routine is essential to ensuring that you complete your online A-levels successfully. Behavioural psychologists have found that routines create structure and promote mental, physical and emotional health. At the opposite end of the scale, the absence of a routine can often lead to stress and feelings of unmanageability.
Removing stress can help to promote academic success, which is why routine is so important. The easiest way to establish routine is to create a structured schedule that is realistic and achievable. This should take your other commitments into account and ensure that you have the time to work, rest, and decompress outside of your academic commitments. Some of the ways in which you can establish this routine include:
- Setting specific study hours. Working for twelve hours one day and then not working at all the next is not good for your physical and mental health. Instead, you should set specific and achievable study hours, ensuring that you schedule regular study breaks that you adhere to.
- Breaking down larger tasks into manageable chunks. Writing a huge report, or reading a chunky textbook, can seem daunting and you may not know where to start. To make the take more manageable, break it into smaller chunks that you won’t be afraid to approach. You can then enjoy the satisfaction of ticking each chunk off your ‘to-do’ list.
- Adhere to all deadlines. It’s easy to forget or dismiss deadlines when they seem months away, but they will quickly creep up on you! Deadlines are easy to meet when you keep them in mind. Some online learners choose to write this on Post-it notes and stick them where they will see them every day. Others prefer a more high-tech approach and use digital calendars or productivity apps to stay organised.
As part of establishing a routine, online learners should also create a productive learning environment. No one is doing their best work whilst they’re slumped on their couch and watching Netflix at the same time. If possible you should, instead, set aside a designated workspace in your home. This could be a home office, a desk in your bedroom, or even a chair at the dining table.
It doesn’t necessarily matter where you work provided it is a quiet space with low through traffic, meaning that you won’t be distracted from the task at hand. It is also recommended that you invest in a sturdy office chair if you are studying for long hours at home. This will provide lumbar support and promote good back health overall.
Setting Realistic Goals
Studying for A-levels is not easy: if it was, everyone would do it! To improve your chances of success, you must set goals throughout your course that are realistic and achievable. You should then set aside time to review these goals and monitor your progress.
Many A-level students choose to break down larger goals into manageable tasks and track their achievements more regularly. If you choose to do this then it’s important that the goals you set are specific, measurable, and achievable.
The individual goals you set for each subject will depend on your unique needs as well as on your career aspirations. But what is important is that your goals are specific. They should be related to your desired learning outcome or achievement and should serve as motivation to reach those goals. Rather than vaguely say study for 2 hours, for example, your goal should be to read specific chapters or complete certain assignments.
For a goal to be ticked off your ‘to-do’ list, that goal needs to be measurable. You need to have something to work towards and know when it has been achieved. An example of this is when you are in your exam revision study period. ‘Study for my exams’ is not a measurable goal. ‘Complete two practice exam papers per week’ is a measurable goal. Being able to measure your goals helps you to monitor your progress and your achievements.
Finally, the goals that you set should be achievable. There is nothing more demoralising than setting a goal that you cannot reach. Goals should be challenging but not so difficult that they are almost impossible. Weighty A-level textbooks are not meant to be read in one go. So, this would be an unachievable goal. However, reading a chapter or two would be both achievable and beneficial.
Actively Participating in Online Discussions and Forums
Online learning is flexible, affordable, and easily accessible, which is why it is so popular. But if you do choose to study for your A-levels online then you may find that you feel isolated, and some students struggle with the concept of independent learning.
The good news is that you don’t have to work alone, even when you are studying online. There are a wide variety of online discussion groups and forums related to every A-level subject, meaning you can find support and advice from other students studying the same subjects as you.
Active participation in study groups is not only beneficial for your mental health, and a great way to alleviate the loneliness that can accompany independent study, it can also deepen understanding, clarify concepts, and provide different perspectives. You will learn more about the subject that you are studying and look at the challenges you are facing within your own work from different angles.
Some online colleges will provide private online forums for their A-level students, meaning that you can take part in smaller online study groups with those students on your course. This is incredibly valuable and something all students should take advantage of. It will provide students with a great opportunity to ask questions, share insights, and collaborate with peers and teachers.
Utilising Available Resources
One of the main advantages of studying for A-levels online, compared to studying for A-levels in a traditional college or school environment, is that online learning facilities will make all of your learning materials available and accessible to you online.
In many cases, it is possible to study for your A-levels using only these online resources. But there is a wide range of online resources available for A-level students, in both online and offline arenas. These include physical and online libraries, specific textbooks and study guides, as well as reputable websites, educational platforms, and digital resources specifically tailored to A-Level subjects.
Students can visit the website of their chosen A-level exam board directly and download past papers to help better prepare them for their exams. The Student Room is also a great website, and a valuable resource for students looking for support and advice on revision tips, tricks and strategies.
If you need access to tried and tested revision strategies then Get Revising is another valuable resource that is utilised by thousands of students every year. This site is home to almost 200,000 resources that have been created and then uploaded by other A-level students. They are sorted by subject and exam board, making it easy to find the resource that will be most valuable to you.
The more of these resources that online A-level students are able to utilise, the greater the depth of their knowledge will be. For this reason, A-level students are encouraged to supplement learning and enhance their understanding with additional research and resources.
Seeking Help And Clarification
It is important for A-level students to remember that just because they are working independently at home does not mean that they are studying alone. Their online learning teacher or instructor should always be available to provide support and clarification when you need it.
No student should ever struggle alone. When you face difficulties or uncertainty during your online learning, or even if you want to double-check how a certain challenge should be approached, it’s important to remember that your tutors are there to provide support. No teacher is available 24/7: this is true whether you are studying online or in a traditional classroom environment. But all teachers are available for certain hours each day, and it is important to take the time at the start of your course to understand both when your tutors will be available, as well as the best way to contact them. In an online learning environment, this is likely to be via an email address or live chat functionality.
When you need help and support, your teachers or tutors should always be your first port of call. But we cannot underestimate the importance of forming study groups or finding online communities where learners can support and learn from each other. Your classmates and peers should be seen not just as potential friends but also as a source of help and support. You are all studying the same course material at the same time, meaning that when problems arise it is likely that there is someone you know struggling with the same task or able to support you through that task.
Practising Effective Time Management
Time management is an essential life skill, and studying for A-levels is a time when many people learn this skill.
One key aspect of effective time management is the ability to break large tasks that may seem insurmountable into smaller and more manageable tasks. When assignments are longer and more complex it’s worth breaking the task down into components so that you can accomplish them one step at a time. This will give learners the motivation they need to just get started. And getting started is often the hardest part of any study session. Many learners procrastinate rather than buckling down and starting to work, which means that tasks take longer to achieve than they should.
Instead, learners should allocate dedicated time slots for studying, revising and completing coursework whilst also ensuring their leave time to relax and unwind.
Taking Regular Breaks and Practising Self-Care
When you are so focused on achieving success in your A-levels so that you can go on to achieve your academic or career goals it may feel counterproductive to take time out. But if you don’t take time away from your studies then the quality of your work can actually suffer.
It is essential that you practise self-care and take regular breaks during periods of intensive online study. Completing exams and final assignments can be stressful. A study conducted in 2010 revealed that exam anxiety affects a significant portion of the student population, ranging from 10% to 40%. Incorporating self-care routines during this intense period is essential to alleviate stress and promote overall well-being.
Some of the most effective ways to do this include:
- Maintaining your regular physical activity. This could be a yoga class, heading out for a run or going to the gym.
- Keep hydrated. Dehydration can lead to heightened anxiety and will only add to your feelings of stress during intense periods of study.
- Get enough sleep. Sleeping 7-9 hours is necessary for optimal mental health functioning. Poor sleep can lead to both physical and mental health problems.
- Incorporate relaxation techniques into your day. Step away from your workspace and take the time to clear your mind, practise deep breathing, and alleviate any stress you are feeling.
- Continue your regular hobbies. If you usually have a weekly football match or poker game with friends, then continue to incorporate this downtime into your weekly schedule.
Many online A-level students also hold full-time jobs in addition to their study commitments, meaning that they have double the stress when the intensity of their work schedule increases. For these people, it is even more important to maintain a healthy work-life balance for long-term success.
Online A-levels can be challenging, but with the right time management strategies, realistic goals and support networks, you can achieve success. Whether you are studying to achieve academic or career goals, focusing on your final goal at every step of the study process will help to keep you motivated. Break down the tasks you face into small and manageable chunks, and you will find it easier to get started, to see what you are achieving as you progress, and to reach your goals.
Online learning is accessible, flexible and achievable for all learners, provided they work hard and apply the tips provided here. When online learning opportunities present themselves, don’t be afraid to embrace them. Visit The Uni Guide for additional tips on how to make the most of your online A-level learning opportunities and to organise your revision and study schedules. The UK Government also provides useful study tips for those studying for their A-levels this year.