Are you thinking of moving your ACCA learning online during these difficult times? You are definitely not alone, and the uncertainty of cancelled courses, exams and working from home is only adding to your stress. But, with the full range of online options that are now available, learning remotely with your laptop is a viable option that can keep you on track with your ACCA objectives while you continue to manage the other areas of your life.
I asked eight highly experienced tutors and learning professionals to offer their advice for anyone considering moving ACCA studying online. They happily shared their knowledge and were in agreement on almost everything. Below, I’ve boiled their advice down to 10 top tips.
You’ll need to take the initiative: online is different from a campus experience
If you’re used to an instructor-led, campus learning experience, learning entirely from home may come as a shock. It’s often harder, not easier, to learn from home. You’ll need to set your own deadlines, actively start engagement with your colleagues or online tutor, and search for knowledge on your own when you don’t understand a topic that you encounter.
Whatever online study route you decide to take, you’ll need time management skills, self-discipline and a proactive learning approach. These ideas underpin all the tips that follow below.
Commit to doing more and pick up another topic
If you are disappointed that your June exam has been cancelled, perhaps use this time to start studying for another exam. You may be stressed that your exam objectives are set back by cancellations – we can’t control this. But you can aim for a new exam date, say September, and start studying a second topic now. You may never have this much free time again – use it your advantage. Set new objectives now to keep your exam and career objectives on track, instead of complaining in December about how much time you lost in 2020.
Create a learning space
Set a single location in your home as your go-to study place. This is an essential part of building a routine, discussed below. Instrumental music at a low volume (use noise-canceling headphones for this, if you have them) can help reduce distractions if you have family members nearby.
Turn off your phone, so you can concentrate 100% on your studies. Multi-tasking won’t work: frequently breaking your concentration to check email or social media will only tire you out as you shift your attention back and forth. (Think of it like aiming a flashlight back-and-forth between two things in the dark.)
Multi-tasking doesn’t work when studying ACCA.
Set a study routine and stick to it
On a face-to-face course, your classroom experience provides the routine. You receive a course timetable in advance, are given set times for assessment, and attending your course becomes a ritual that you follow.
But, when studying from home, you won’t have this discipline imposed on you and a plethora of distractions are at your fingertips (social media, work email, news websites, etc), so it’s even more critical to set a study routine, including a learning space, mentioned above.
Imagine you are trying to reach a fitness objective rather than passing an ACCA exam. Your routine, in this case, is getting up every day at 6am, putting on your running shoes and getting out the door. If you stick to this, exercise becomes inevitable. Take this same approach with your online ACCA studies: set a home study routine and stick to it.
Make your bed, get dressed and set boundaries
The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost when working and studying from home. It might be tempting to stay in bed and dial into online courses from there, but try and do all the things you usually do: set your alarm, make coffee and get dressed into nice clothes to start your day. Forcing yourself to get dressed for working hours and then changing at the end of the ‘day’ will make a difference to your mindset and approach. You’ll prepare more seriously for your exams with this mindset.
Practise extensively in the online platform
If you’re doing Strategic Professional exams, you might be sitting in the CBE environment for the first time – this will require a new approach to exam technique, and it will be on you to learn and practise this 100% from home. Become an expert in the new environment with extensive practice and make sure that viewing all of ACCA’s online resources for your exam is part of your study plan.
Create your own study group
You may feel a sense of isolation studying at home for the first time. You’ll miss the moral support you receive from your friends and colleagues at your college if this has been your primary approach until now. If you learn best with support and help from others, recreate this online – there are many forums and groups out there. It’s not hard to find online study buddies. Take a look at ACCA’s Learning Community to share tips, ideas and questions with an international community of students.
Don’t be lazy: use all your available study options
If you are working with an online learning provider, you probably have a wealth of resources available, like recorded sessions, access to mock exams, and digital flashcards. Take time, explore all that is available, and use them. Many students who attend online courses don’t take full advantage of all the resources provided.
Start preparing earlier
If you’re studying on your own at home, feedback from your tutor may come slower. You won’t be able to wait until the last minute and ask all your questions on an instructor-led revision course. Start your exam preparation and studies earlier than you might have in the past when learning online.
Be kind to yourself and others
We’ve had to adjust to changes and uncertainty in many aspects of our lives in a short space of time – studying is just one part of this. And uncertainty creates stress.
There’s a term called the ‘Amygdala Hijack’, which describes the emotional outbursts we have when we feel threatened and is often the cause of spontaneous, uncontrollable, angry outbursts we have which we later come to regret. The amygdala is the part of our brain that processes emotions and regulated flight-or-fight responses. If you can remove some uncertainty from your current situation by creating a new exam strategy, you’ll stay in better control emotionally and make more rational decisions.
Be kind to yourself and show yourself compassion. Now is not the time for harsh, negative self-talk. Similarly, be kind and patient with others who may react irrationally or lash out in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily.
I hope you found something useful in the tips above and won’t let the current global situation derail your professional aspirations.
Steve Willis, ACCA trainer