UKZN Digital Learning Portal

Preparation for Online Learning

Organise your physical space

Select an area you already associate with learning, such as a desk away from distractions like your TV (where possible). If you have limited space or you can’t create a dedicated study area, store your devices (laptop/tablet/smartphone) and study materials in something easily transportable such as a backpack – keeping all your resources together helps keep you organised (UTEP Connect Extended University, 2017). Identify the conditions that allow you to concentrate and learn most effectively. Your motivation can be affected by factors such as temperature, noise level and lighting. Allow yourself some quiet time and privacy to focus on your course material (where possible) and try to ensure correct posture.

Organise your course materials and online resources

While many students may prefer to work with hard copies of texts that can be written on, current circumstances may not allow this to be possible. Download and store your electronic files (posted on Moodle by your lecturer, or information/files that you find online) on your device in folders. Use descriptive names to make finding resources less time consuming. Decide how you want to organise your folders e.g.: 

  • One folder for each course 
  • One subfolder for each week 
  • Further subfolders within each weekly folder divided into e.g. ‘readings’, ‘resources’, assignments, etc., or divided by subtopics – however you prefer

Students are increasingly making use of online storage services which are reliable options to ensure that files are stored safely. Examples of these are: iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive – use these to store copies and safeguard your resources and your own work. Make sure that you check storage capacity (size), compatibility (with your preferred browser and programs on your device) and other features of the storage service that you have selected. Bookmark websites that you will need to revisit for your courses so you don’t have to spend lots of time searching for them every time you need the information. Use online programs such as Quizlet to create flashcards and games that will help you study (Julian, 2018).

Organise Your Time

With traditional classroom learning you need to be at a specific place at a specific time. However, with online learning requires you need to set aside time on your own to study and to review the material, which requires discipline and understanding about how best to use your time (Stern, 2020). Firstly, make sure that you familiarise yourself with the syllabus and its objectives, course requirements and assessment due dates. Write these down on a calendar that you hang on the wall of your study space or use an online calendar to set reminders of upcoming due dates. Then create a weekly schedule where you formally block off times for each course and stick to this schedule (Joyce, 2020).

At the beginning of each course week, create a to-do list that outlines all coursework you need to complete for that week. Break down the coursework into smaller, manageable tasks, estimate the time it will take you to complete each task and fit them into your general schedule (see Section 4 – Study Tips for Online Reading and Learning). Productivity is usually highest in short bursts with minimal distractions and frequent breaks. Although accessing the internet is a necessity for online learning, it can also be a distraction. Try to make use of online tools such as StayFocusd, which helps restrict the amount of time you spend on sites such as Facebook. While these strategies should assist you in managing your time more effectively, be sure to choose methods that work best for you as an individual.


  • Joyce, L. (2020). ‘Tips for successful online learning’. [Online] Available at:
  • Julian, S. (2018). ‘Digital texts and reading strategies’. Tips and trends: Instructional Technologies Committee. Available at:
  • Stern, J. (2020). ‘Introduction to online teaching and learning’. Available at:
  • UTEP Connect Extended University (2017). 7 ways to organize your study space for success. [Online]. Available at:
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