4 Ways to Become an Active Learner

Are you the type to leave things to the last minute? Here's how to learn smarter (not harder) and boost success.


Earning a university degree is no easy feat- that’s why most people consider it one of their greatest achievements. But for the most part, it’s you who will determine the difficulty of your own journey.

Some people thrive under pressure, but this article is written for the rest of us, who prefer a smooth sail to the finish line. It’s about working smarter, not harder, and this is what active learning can help us do. So let’s take a look at some ways you can take an active approach to your study, and be on your way to great results.

Make a weekly date with your LMS

If you decide to drop off the radar for a week or two, or three, you can’t expect to click back into your LMS (Learning Management System, or online classroom), completely unfettered. You’ll have missed out on important discussions, plus you’ll have piles of learning materials to read, and hours of lectures to watch. It’s like returning to a friendship group after an absence – you’ll get the gist of the conversation, but you’ll have no idea who Fred is, or what was so funny last Tuesday at dinner. It’s those details that make you a great friend, or in this case, a top student.

To get your best results, you need to log into the LMS every week, and fully immerse yourself. By scheduling a time every week to log in, you’re placing importance on this task, and you’re more likely to stick to it in the same way you stick to doctors appointments, or school pick-ups. Frequently logging in is important to your success, because if you get behind, it’s likely that you’ll skim over or skip valuable material in order to catch up. Those who are up to date have the mental clarity to dig deeper into the material and ask questions, and these are the students that get ahead.

Work gradually, not frantically

Whatever the time of year, there’s always something that can get between you and study. Not only do we have our jobs to contend with – we also need time to exercise, to take our kids to birthday parties, to visit our grandmothers, and to get the house clean. Juggling all these activities can leave you with a backlog of uni work – one that is perhaps too terrifying to confront. The best way to avoid this is to divide your tasks into bite sized pieces – including revision and assignments.

Doing small tasks frequently means you aren’t faced with a monster of a task later on. When you’re overwhelmed by a big task, you tend to procrastinate, even though time is precious. Chipping away at your assignment gradually means that you’ve got time to step back for a day or two, and then return with fresh eyes and a fresh attitude. This can give you a chance to re-energise, improve and ultimately get better grades.

Embrace private study groups

At times, studying online can feel isolating, particularly if you’re stuck on something with nobody around to help. You can free yourself of this feeling by joining a study group, either online or face-to-face. The forums in your LMS are great for coursework-related discussions, but sometimes, you’ll find that you just want to vent your frustrations, or find out how other people are moving along. In a study group, you can talk through issues, share triumphs, ask questions, exchange resources, or simply get a fresh perspective on something that’s been challenging you. One of the easiest ways to form a study group is through a platform like Facebook, which is relaxed and conversational, and gets visited by most of us on a daily basis.

If you form a study group with students living in your area, try meeting in person once a fortnight or month. You may be surprised by how it can relieve tension, and encourage you to soldier on when you’re feeling low.

Start in the shallow end

Procrastination is sometimes the result of fear, and it’s sometimes the result of confusion – but more often than not, we procrastinate when we’re faced with something unfamiliar. If you feel reluctant to dive into dense course materials, try easing into the topic with a simple overview, which you can find on Google or Wikipedia, or in video form on Youtube. Doing this will help you become familiar with the topic, and it will prompt you to start formulating questions that will drive you to make a start.

If fear or confusion are holding you back, don’t be afraid to get in touch with your unit tutor directly via email, or using the forums in your LMS. They will help you deconstruct a topic or an assignment task to make sure you fully understand what’s required. They want to see you succeed, so keep that in mind when you’re feeling stressed.

Active learning is not just about saving your sanity – it’s about ensuring you get the best outcome you’re capable of. So give these techniques a try, and you might be surprised by the positive changes they make to your life as a student.

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