How do you get motivated when you study by distance?

If work or personal commitments make classroom learning difficult, then studying remotely is a fantastic way to achieve your AAT qualifications. Here’s how to get motivated and make a success of it…

Today, increasing numbers of AAT learners are watching webinars and lectures away from the classroom, whether it’s at their kitchen table, at their home office, or even in a local park.

Appreciate the flexibility

It’s a flexible way of studying that works for those AAT students juggling other commitments, such as full-time jobs, looking after children, or caring duties.

Classroom learning would also be impractical for Sam Cosgrove, who at the time of writing is a fourth-top scorer in the Scottish Premiership. “Football is not your average nine-to-five job,” he says. “There’s lots of waiting around. You could come home after training and play PlayStation, or do something productive with that time. If I get a couple of hours to focus, it’s good.”

One of the biggest draws of AAT remote learning is that students sit assessments on a date convenient for them – these take place at an AAT-approved assessment venue, rather than at home.

Avoid interruption

Balancing studying with other commitments isn’t easy, though. “If there’s nobody pushing you like a tutor or deadlines, you can become complacent,” says Sam. Distance learning requires ironclad self-discipline.

If anybody knows about being motivated, it’s 47-year-old Maria. At the start of 2019, she was a Level 1 AAT student with a hare-brained plan: “I wanted to finish all four AAT levels within one year. My tutors thought the idea was crazy, but still supported me.” Level 2 was done-and-dusted within five weeks, while she passed Level 4 in January this year.

To achieve this, Maria made big sacrifices in her personal life. “I would get up at 4.00 am most mornings to squeeze in three to four hours of studying before work,” she recalls. “For exams, I’d wake up at 3.00 am.” Avoiding interruption is key. When she’s not getting-to-grips with cost-benefit analysis on the Central Line, Maria retreats to a local library because “if I study at home, I often end up doing housework”.

Make use of technology

For some students, distance learning is less about flexibility, and more about cost – it doesn’t involve traveling to college. It’s also little surprise, perhaps, that the rise in distance learning at universities has coincided with a hike in university tuition fees.

This rise in distance learning has also been enabled by the tech revolution. AAT’s distance learning courses involve a range of innovative teaching materials that enrich learning, such as webinars, e-seminars, video lectures, and Skype chats with tutors.

Overcome alienation

Using your living room as a lecture hall has its drawbacks – namely a lack of face-to-face interaction. “You can feel a little lonely,” says Cristina, who studied AAT levels 1−3 in the classroom. “I missed interacting with other students, plus I couldn’t discuss any doubts with the teacher immediately.”

Indeed, working from home can be an alienating experience– research by Utah’s Brigham Young University showed that lack of social interaction can affect health as badly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Sharon, who suffers from anxiety, found an AAT webinar on mental health useful, along with AAT’s Facebook forums, which enabled her to feel part of a community.

“Ever since I found these forums, I feel more connected to other distance learning students out there,” she says. “If I’m stuck on a question, I simply ask somebody in that group – there’s always somebody to answer it.” Ultimately though, the most effective method for resisting the distractions of home-working is reminding yourself why you’re studying in the first place.

Five ways to motivate yourself

1 Create a study timetable “I make monthly, weekly and daily plans,” says Maria. “These timetables show me any slots I might have free, such as 6.00-7.00pm, which I could then dedicate to studying.”

2 Don’t procrastinate “It’s easy to think that if your exam is a month or two away, you can put off studying,” says Maria. “But the best thing is to get stuck in now. The longer you wait, the more demotivated you’ll become.”

3 Download an internet restriction app Try rationing time online by only checking email or social media once every couple of hours. You could also try an internet restriction app, such as Freedom or Anti Social, which allows users to block the internet for a set period of time.

4 Get family and friends onside Distance learning can place stress upon partners and family members. “When I started AAT, I spent every
single spare minute studying,” recalls Cristina. “My partner complained and our relationship started to suffer. We were on the edge of splitting up, but when I explained it could lead to a job in finance, he understood.”

5 Make time for you “Even though I would wake up at 4.00 am, I still ensured I got eight hours’ sleep,” says Maria. “It’s important to rest and enjoy life, so make sure you see friends and family at weekends.”

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