Original post from April 2020
You’ve finally taken the plunge* and enrolled in one of our on-demand online English courses for advanced learners. Woop Woop! Whether you’ve chosen the Road to English Proficiency programme, the Business English Training collection or a single course, you may be thinking, “okay, but now what?!”
You might be feeling a little overwhelmed*: This is a new platform, a new way of learning, so you might not quite be sure how things work.
Maybe you haven’t studied English in a while and you’re feeling a bit rusty*.
Maybe this is your first time taking an online course …
Whatever your apprehensions, worries or doubts are, the first thing to know is you can always ask us for help. At any stage, if you have a question, all you have to do is send us an email or send me a direct message inside the platform.
The second thing to know is we have prepared a group of tutorials that are all about setting you up* to have as much success and the best experience here possible, both from the technical side of things and from a mindset point of view.
And mindset is what we’re going to address in this article.
take the plunge* = to make a decision to do something, especially after thinking about it for a long time
overwhelmed* = to cause someone to feel sudden strong emotion; to feel overpowered
feeling a bit rusty* = to feel that you are not as good at something as you used to be, because you have not practised it for a long time
setting you up* = preparing you (watch out! This phrasal verb can have many meanings depending on the context).
Step 1: Get ‘unstuck’ in English
Do you ever feel that your English never seems to improve?!
Do you ever feel stuck in a rut*?
*rut – (get stuck in a rut) = a habit or pattern of behaviour that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.
Click through the photos below and see if any of them sound familiar!
How do you get unstuck and out of the rut?
Stop doing the same things that don’t work for us!
It is tempting to try an easy fix when we are stuck. Do you know how many times I’ve popped into* Feltrinelli bookstore and I’ve bought a grammar book or novel in Italian, in a desperate attempt to improve and learn Italian?
Or downloaded Duolingo or some other app thinking, yes, I’ll spend 10 minutes a day on it… but guess what? Guess how many books I have sitting on my shelf gathering dust*. And how many apps I’ve had to uninstall because they were using precious space on my ancient smartphone?
No, we need to ditch bad habits and we have to stop doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. It’s time to get smart and strategic!
*to pop into – go somewhere quickly
*gathering dust – something has been forgotten or it is never used
*to ditch – to stop, get rid of
- What are your ‘easy fixes’ when it comes to ‘learning’ English?
- What do you need to ditch? What do you need to stop doing?
- Take a moment here to share your thoughts in the comments 👇
Step 2: Prioritise
“Kerin, I need your help. I really need to improve my English, but I don’t have much time to study.”
I would be a rich woman if I got a penny every time a student has told me this!
Here is the thing: of course you don’t have much time. Do you know anyone who does?!
We have jobs, family, friends, pets, chores, yoga … life!
This was one of my main considerations when designing this programme – I wanted to create something that you can fit into your lifestyle.
You can can choose when you want to study. You can choose to go deeper when you want to in those moments when you do have more time and choose to do less in other busier times.
Yet, of course, the programme will only work if you show up and put the work in.
Your task here is to get honest with yourself. When you say “I can’t dedicate much time to English”, do you mean can’t or won’t?
By meaning that you won’t, what you are saying is, it’s not a priority for me. And that is totally ok! There really is no reason to feel any guilt here.
BUT you do have to be honest about it. We tend to make time for things that are important to us.
If improving your English is important to you, you’ll make time for it.
And if it’s not, you won’t.
Let’s get honest! Where do you stand right now?
- English is a priority for me and I’m ready to commit.
- English is important to me, but it’s not a priority. I don’t feel ready to commit right now.
Step 3: Make the decision to try something new
If you have decided, yes, English is a priority for me, great! It’s time to try something different; something that challenges you in order to change you.
You’ve probably done a few English courses by this point. This course is going to be a bit different.
We have a unique approach to teaching an online course, it is a digital course, but you are followed very closely by me, or another teacher… a real human being! This gives you the best of both worlds.
And you will have a unique approach to online learning: whatever works for you, stick with it. There really is no right way or wrong way to do it.
However, I can promise you this, it won’t work if you never log in to the programme and don’t do the work. And you will never be a very happy online learner.
This leads us nicely onto step 4!
Step 4: Do the work
Our programme allows you to set your own study schedule, work at your own pace, and learn from the comfort of your home, coffee shop or the office.
So what’s the catch*? Because there’s always a catch!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever joined a gym, gone for a week or two, then given up?! …
Well, it’s the same thing. You actually have to do the work if you want to see a change.
You have to set boundaries, limits, and goals for yourself.
OTHERWISE, it’s not going to work and your English isn’t going to change.
Our programme is not an easier way to learn, but rather a more convenient* one, and interesting, enjoyable and stimulating too!
To successfully learn anything, you need to dedicate your time and fully commit to your learning process, just as you would do for a traditional course, and now we are going to see exactly how to do that!
*what’s the catch? [idiom] is a retort when one believes that an offer is too good to be true.
* convenient [adjective] means suitable, appropriate, practical; fitting in well with a person’s needs, activities, and plans. (It doesn’t mean cheap or a good price)
Step 5: Set goals and objectives
1. Set expectations, learning objectives and goals
If you’re clear about your expectations, you’re far less likely to get disappointed and more likely to be motivated.
The first thing to check is that your overall goals align with this programme.
(To check this, please see your course description. If you are doing this course through company training, check your welcome email).
What are your personal goals?
Next, you should identify what your personal goals are:
- Perhaps you want to learn 10 new words and expressions every week.
- Perhaps you want to develop your listening and speaking skills so that you can carry out meetings in English more fluently
- Perhaps you want to focus on fine-tuning your English
Simply, what results do you desire?
This will be personal and unique to you.
- Do your goals align with this course?
- What are your own personal goals?
Write down your goals on a piece of paper or in the comments below. 👇
Step 6: Build a study plan
This programme has been designed to allow you to put in as much or as little as you can in that moment. Whichever way you go, you’ll be more successful if you plan time to commit to English.
I’ve found the best approach for busy bees* is to tackle* your planning weekly. Put it in your diary, a reminder on your phone, a post-it note on the fridge …
Focus on what can work for you for this week. And next week, worry about next week. That is the beauty and the benefit of online learning – you set the schedule for what works for you.
There’s no right or wrong study plan. The right one will work with your schedule and allow you to fulfil * your other responsibilities and obligations.
busy bee – an industrious person
tackle – to make an effort to deal with a (difficult) situation
fulfil – achieve or realise (something desired, promised, or predicted)
Breaking up study
People are different and what works for one might not work for another. There will be some of you who will binge the lessons like a Netflix series. I know students of mine who like to spend all Sunday afternoon inside the programme and then they don’t log in for the rest of the week. Then there are students who like to do a steady 30 minutes each day on their lunch break.
You have to find what works for you. A little every day, 3 times a week, or one afternoon a week,… mix it up, try it out
Start where you can. And let that be okay, because it is ok!
Allow yourself to work at your own rate of speed. You’re not in competition with anyone else.
At the same time, avoid giving yourself too much time off or too much slack*. If you’re constantly putting off* your studying time or neglecting to move on to the next section, give yourself a serious pep talk*.
slack – a decrease or reduction in intensity, quantity, or speed
putting off – delaying something
pep talk– a talk intended to make someone feel more courageous or enthusiastic
To sum up, when, where and how you study is up to you. You will be more successful if you plan for it!
Bonus video: Get inspired!
Try Something New
Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days.
Watch this short, lighthearted talk which offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.
- stuck in a rut – lacking motivation (we saw this earlier!)
- to follow in the footsteps – to follow someone’s else’s idea
- dwelling– living
- computer nerd – a person who spends too much time with their computer
- sleep-deprived– not having enough sleep
- to stick – to be permanent
- give it a shot – just try it
1 In informal English, you can use the word pretty in place of ‘very’ or ‘quite’:
“The idea is actually pretty simple.”
2 You can use the phrase ‘why not‘ to challenge a person to do something:
“why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days?”
- Would you be willing to try something new for 30 days?
- What are some things that come to mind?
- How do you think you could apply this advice to English?
Let is know in the comments! 👇
68 thoughts on “6 ways to be successful with online English courses”
I need to ditch my distraction with mobile fone during my study time. My Whatsapp doesn’t stop to receive messages in my native language.
Ahaha! This is a common one! Turn it off 👍
My goals: Improve my listening skills, to sustain an English conversation with confidence, in a comfortable and clear way. To realize my evolution week by week.
Hi Adriana, these are clear objectives, great.
To help you even more, maybe you could set yourself some short-term goals. For example,
-30 mins three times a week in EDA following the PP
-x2 30 minute listening practice (podcasts, TV etc)
-By the end of this month, I want to be able to have a ten-minute conversation with a native speaker.
Something more practical and concrete will feel more positive and attainable, rather than tedious and overwhelming, it will be easier to do and easier to measure your progress.
Thank you @Kerin! I agree, the much more specific we are more clear and easier it is to reach the goals. My self-commitment is:
– 105 mins three times a week in EDA following the PP
– 15 mins three times a week after EDA filling my vocabulary list about new words learnt.
-x5 listening practice per week (1 episode Netflix every night, initially with subtitles)
– In the middle of June/20, I want to be able to have a ten-minute conversation with a native speaker. (It’ll represent 6hours per week until 15/06 the total will be 18 hours dedicated to preparing myself to the conversation in English with a Native Speaker).
This is fantastic Adriana, attainable and structured! I wish you all the best with your objectives and just shout out if you need any help from me. 👍💪
As I love learning, may be what I need to ditch is my bad habit of trying to take it all in. I sometimes feel stressed because I´m constantly trying to learn more. I need to relax a little more. As Adriana said I also get distracted by the phone or the TV
I understand that temptation too Carla! It could be a very good idea to relax a bit and not put so much pressure on yourself.
ps. turn that bloody phone off! 😂
I need to ditch my negative thougts like “I can’t improve my English” or “My English should be better than it is… maybe I am not smart enught”. This kind of thinkig stuck me : )
Absolutely Maria! Time to get rid of these negative thoughts! 🌸
I would like to improve my listening comprehension and my vocabulary. I need to reinforce grammar and writing.
Clear aims Maria 👍
You’ll certainly improve your listening, vocab and writing with this programme.
To help you even more, maybe you could set yourself some short-term goals. For example,
-30 mins three times a week in EDA following the PP
-x2 20 minute session per week to review grammar …
-By the end of this month, I want to have reviewed the X, Y, Z tenses….
Setting practical and concrete goals will feel more positive and attainable, rather than tedious and overwhelming.
This weekend I should make a plan (a concrete plan!) Thanks for this advice Kerin.
I need to ditch distractions. I have to do this, I have to do that… I need to find a moment during the day, where there is no place for interruptions or distractions. In order to get this time exclusively for my study, I have to weak up earlier than anybody else at home. So yes, I have to ditch my laziness too. But I have done it before, I´ll make it now!
That’s the spirit Mónica! Distractions have to go!
(watch the spelling: wake up instead of weak, and I’ll DO it now, not make)👍
Thanks Kerin. My goals are improving my listening and refreshing/learning vocabulary.
I think I can spend one hour a day learning English.
One hour a day would be great if you can manage it.
This lesson it really useful If your english level do not improve you have to change what you are doing and start new habits ….
When it comes to learning English, I always try everything popped into my mind. After a trial, I judge whether the method is fitting on my way of studying. Therefore, I become very picky in this sense and ditch the rut right away.
More you try various methods and judge the ruts, faster you will be to make a right decision. By the repetition, people can get out of the rut and narrow down the choice which they should take.
I think this a sensible approach. We have to try things out – give things a go -before we can decide if they are right or not for us.
In my opinion, it is important to ditch negative thoughts, that I cannot ever achieve a good level of English. Instead, I do not give up this challenge, I want to improve my English bit by bit.
Good plan Roberto!
I need to understand myself that I can’t grab all the interesting words at once so I need to ditch that thought, but rather believe that with constant practice everyday I will finally get to my goal of grabbing new words and phrases.
Yes Samuel! Patience is a virtue!
I think I need to ditch my lack of organization and start setting achibeable goals to improve my english. As I live and work in english I can’t really scape the language and that helps me improve a bit more day by day, but I find that when I need to write I still need to improve and I get very lazy about it.
This made me smile – it is my problem with Italian. The ONLY thing that works for me is blocking actual time-slots in my diary. Otherwise, I just don’t study!
My easy fixes were not that easy. I did struggle through all those books, but my progress was little as compared to the effort I did. I need to ditch the idea that studies must be necessarilly hard work. I also need to stop being too hard on myself, when I make mistakes.
Yes Helena, I agree. A shift in mindset would definitely be a good choice.
To quote Jo Boaler “Mistakes grow your brain”!🤗
I tend to postpone things over and over.
I have to ditch my distractions, in particular, the use of social media. Both Facebook and Instagram work as a bait that keeps me browsing for hours.
Ugh, the dreaded social media! I can relate. Switch it off!
I need to ditch inconsistency. Once I buy a book in the seek for a new vocabulary I have to commit myself to read it, mark the unknown words and learn them every day.
I need to ditch the bad habit of postponing my study time!!
That’s a good place to start!
During my high and medium school years I had really poor English teachers, therefore I hated studying it and I thought I simply was not good with foreign languages. As a consequence, when in my university path I wanted to “study English” I watched TV shows and read books in English.
At this point, I think that if I want to improve I need to ditch my “repulsion” to English courses. Moreover I have to ditch the habit of focusing on something for one month and then suddenly abandon it.
I had a similar experience with maths Lucia – had terrible teachers and I really hated it and felt stupid! Then, in my final year of high school our teacher was amazing. He cured my ‘repulsion’ (I’m still terrible at maths, but I no longer despise it!) I hope we can do the same for you with English!
I need to ditch my hurry to learn english and try to find shorter way to do that.
I always end up giving up
Yes, Daniel! Embrace that it takes time and patience … but you will get there!
Sometimes I’m too lazy and too much afraid of making mistakes… so I easily give up.
Laziness is a common problem this week!
Making mistakes when we use a second language is something we just have to accept. With time and practise, hopefully we can stop this being an issue for you 👍
When it comes to learning English my brain can’t find an easy way and I’m not able to accept it… I mean, I would like just improving without making any effort. I know I know, it doesn’t work like that…
Ahaha! Yes Nadia, I empathise (I think language teachers can make the worst students!) 😂
I really need to improve my english! This thought is always in my mind… and l’m just a little scared do not achieve this goal…l expect the very best from this new experience
Sounds like you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Why do you ‘really need to improve your English?’ If we can understand that, it will help with setting goals 👍
The thing is that it’s long time l want to improve and so far l always pospone the decision to subscribe a serious program
My phone distract me all the time, I cannot turn it off because I need to be available at work, I need to ditch my excuses I guess and try to focus.
Oh the dreaded phone! We all sympathise with you!
I think I need to take courage and get rid of subtitles while I’m watching tv series or films 🙂 and also don’t be afraid of making mistakes while learning.
I think if you use English subtitles, it can also be beneficial Paolo! Don’t be too mean to yourself 😂
(Yes, it’s easier said than done, but I think once you can stop caring about making mistakes, you’ll feel so much relief)
I have to stop pretending to learn english without dedicating the right time to it. I know that some people have a real talent for foreign languages but this does not apply to me! I have gained a good level of English after many years. Now is the moment to make a stronger commitment and start taking my proficiency to the next level.
Hi Valeria, I must admit your comment made me smile because if I just replaced ‘English’ with ‘Italian’ – I could have written it myself!!
Hoping our course will be a big push to get you where you want to go 🙌
I must stop feeling stressed that I can’t improve my English.
I must stop downloading every piece of material I find on the Internet.
I must start learning English in new ways.
Hi Marco, I think that by joining the Road programme you are committing to learning English in new ways, so you should be proud of yourself for making the first step 🙌
And I agree, stress if a bad thing, but you most certainly CAN improve. You’ll see👍
Definitely, I need to be more honest about my strong and weak sides, and ditch an overwhelming self-doubt caused by perfectionism. Also make more realistic plan and stick to it by developing healthy habits.
Yes, yes and yes! Perfectionism is definitely something that can hold us back and it is useless when learning a language. I totally support creating realistic plans and healthy habits 👍
I need to ditch my introvert nature, trying not to be afraid of making mistakes. I also definitely need a 34 hours day so i can take more time to study 😛
No there’s an idea! A 34 hour day… if only!
Yes, not being afraid of making mistakes is one of the best things you can work on in order to make more progress 👍
I have to ditch my habit to face things in a hurry. I need to be more relaxed and focused even is this will take more time to do activities. I must not think to the next step too early.
I hear you Manu! Trying to be more in the present, not thinking ahead too much is something I need to work on too.
For sure, I need to spend more time learning English and maybe I need someone/something that tells me clear what I’m wrong.
But I know that the only thing that I must do is study continuously without spending my free time doing superfluous things that are not useful for my personal growth.
I can definitely help you with the feedback part … not so much the willpower part unfortunately😂
Since I’ve studied english a lot, I need to understand that I still have a lot to learn and to set goals to get better.
I absolutely need to ditch procrastination.
Yes, be patient with yourself! (I’ve been learning Italian for 20 years and I still feel only middle of the road!)
I have to ditch my insecurity and my shyness when I’m practising english language, because that’s just make my mind thought that I’m not improving. Even if 4 years ago I spoke and wrote fluently and without too much mistakes. 🙂
It’s not easy to ditch the shyness, I know, but we can work on it for sure 💪 I also empathise with you – I had a pretty strong level in Italian, but the last year I haven’t been practising and I’ve lost a lot which is frustrating. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll start getting it back during this course!
I need to ditch my thoughts that if I do not spend the whole day learning English, it will never improve. Or that I am not good enough to get beyond the level of English that I have now due to lack of time or intellectual capabilities 🙂
Yes, I agree – ditch those thought now! Terrible pressure to put yourself under!