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Our in-house specialist gives his top tips for students taking distance-learning online English courses to avoid the most common pitfalls and achieve results faster by betting on the modality.

Year after year, the number of online courses offered by providers has been increasing exponentially, and established educational institutions are now muscling in on the market. The options are many: extension courses, undergraduate, MBAs, post-graduate specializations, corporate training and, of course, online English courses.

“It’s the future. Whoever’s not on board will be left behind,” says Ricardo Hilgenberg, Brazil’s National Director of E2Language, an online language school. He adds that, since it is a relatively new form of teaching and learning, the challenge is getting the students accustomed to this type of course. Students must adopt a new approach to online learning to achieve results, and Hilgenberg has identified ten important ways to do just that.

How to Optimize Your Learning With Online English Courses:

1. Remember, you will be in charge of your success

The profile of the average online course taker is very different from that of a traditional, classroom pupil. “In distance learning, it is easy to become a passive agent, so a change of mentality is needed,” Ricardo says.

When it comes to traditional, face-to-face corporate English courses, the student is used to receiving all of the content from the teacher. With the online version, a change of posture is required. All of the content is already there, so you need to be proactive and go out in search of the information you need.

One of the most important things for the online student is to understand that the person behind your success (or failure) and overall positive (or negative) outcomes is the learner himself. “The learner is the protagonist and has to take hold of the teaching reins,” says Hilgenberg.

2. Get to know the platform

A common mistake that hinders many distance learning students, leading to low rates of retention, is the lack of familiarity with the study platform. “Sometimes the person logs in and wants to start studying, but does not watch the video tutorial to understand how the tool works,” laments Ricardo.

Before you start your studies, invest some time and effort in exploring the platform. Understand all of the features it offers, watch the videos provided exactly for this purpose and learn how to navigate through all of its learning channels.

3. Organize an adequate study space

It is not worth lying in bed with a laptop to do you course just because you can. It would be equally inappropriate to think you could study well on the bus or in a busy café. Preparing a suitable learning environment to study for online English courses is absolutely key. This environment must be free of excessive noise and interruptions, including colleagues, spouses, children and pets. “Any kind of study deserves your full attention and concentration, so it’s important to set up a proper work space,” says Hilgenberg.

Online English Courses
Make sure you set aside time in a quiet environment with little or no distractions for your study!

4. Set achievable goals

As the central player in your distance learning course, you are responsible for dictating the pace of study. However, that does not mean you can speed things up to the point where you can finish six modules in a single month. Tempting though this may be, it is a trap to be avoided, especially in more automated online English courses.

“You end up associating the fact that you have the platform available at any time to the thought that the more you do, the faster it will end,” explains Hilgenberg.

Fair enough, you may finish the course early, but will you have absorbed all of the content? “Miracles rarely happen, and it is a mistake to assume they do. In the case of language learning, nobody achieves fluency in six months by gaming the system, “he says.

5. Maintain a routine

Organize your schedule to fit in a few hours of study per week. Make a schedule and stick to it. Time flexibility is a huge benefit of distance learning, but it can turn into a headache for the ill-disciplined student. “Just because it is online, that doesn’t mean you can leave it all to chance,” says Ricardo.

6. Keep in touch with the teacher / tutor

A human interface with the online platform is essential. Having ongoing, close contact with the teacher or tutor of the course means you will get the most appropriate guidance for your studies. Take advantage of this connection to ensure the best possible outcome from your online learning experience.

Online English Class
Just because it’s an online course, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great student-teacher relationship!

7. Clarify any doubts, ask any questions

Do not let the distance between you and the school make you shy. If you are in doubt about any aspect of your course, let the course provider know about it. “The mantra is that there is ‘no such thing as a stupid question’, so you have got nothing to lose by getting in touch,” says Ricardo. If the course provider seems less than happy to help, or makes it difficult to contact them, perhaps it is time to think about a new course provider.

8. Do not leave the side content aside

In addition to their main offerings, most online English courses allow you to access complementary activities and material. According to Ricardo, you should seize these opportunities and make time in your study routine to work on these resources. “This means that the student can maximize their results and increase their chance of achieving a positive outcome,” he says.

Speaking of complementary activities, E2Language provides free grammar, vocabulary & pronunciation videos like this one on our “Core English Skills” Youtube channel!

9. Avoid building a backlog

The unexpected can and will happen, and no student is immune from falling behind in their study schedule from time to time. Nevertheless, the quicker you deal with these ‘hiccups’ the better. “If the student keeps leaving work for later, he ends up with a mountain of work that either gets done in a desperate rush or never gets dealt with. Either way, these are not sound, pedagogical outcomes,” explains Ricardo.

Online English Courses
Don’t let the work pile up!

10. Do not limit yourself to the skills you favour

As much as you may want to, you cannot survive on meat alone: eventually you have to eat some fruit and veg. Your study schedule is a balanced diet for your learning skills, and you cannot leave anything aside. “There are four, equal strands to language learning: reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension. All of them need to be developed properly or you risk the overall result,” warns Hilgenberg.

As is the case with any self-directed study, if you want to get the most out of your online English course, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to see results!

Do you have any tips for making the most of online English courses? Feel free to comment and let us know!


Ricardo Hilgenberg – National Director, E2Language Brazil

Colin David – Director of Business Development, E2Language 

All Comments 3
  • Florence Heinrich says:

    Thank you! My first experience with the course was unsuccessful. Not only because the learning platform was inconvenient and incomprehensible to me, but also because I chose the wrong course for my level of knowledge. I think I won’t make that mistake again. I choose my courses much more thoroughly now.

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