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How to start learning online and stay motivated

Online learning tips

Our online courses are designed to help busy researchers develop or refresh essential skills to advance their research and career. Bitesize modules are mobile-friendly and easy to dip into and enable you to learn anytime, anywhere. If you haven’t tried learning online before, check out our top tips on how to get started - and keep it up!

Check your tech

To access Nature Masterclasses online courses, all you need is a computer or mobile device and a reliable internet connection. The courses are mobile-friendly, so you can learn on the go on your phone or tablet if you want to. 

You can register to take our free Focus on Peer Review course or sample our other courses on Scientific Writing and Publishing or Effective Collaboration in Research. And we have new courses on data management and scientific communication coming soon!

If your lab or university subscribes to Nature Masterclasses, check these instructions before registering on the Nature Masterclasses website as we offer different ways for institutions to connect their users to the online courses. If you are unsure whether your institution has a subscription, please do check with a supervisor or university staff.

If you need any assistance with registering or logging in, visit our Help Page for more information and contact details.

Set a goal

What do you want to achieve, why, and by when

Do you want to have improved your writing skills before starting an important paper? Do you want to brush up on some skills so you can set up a new collaborative project next month? Do you want to have completed one or more courses so you can add them to your CV, website or LinkedIn profile? 

It’s easy to de-prioritise or forget about professional development when you’re busy, but having a clear purpose can help to motivate you and keep your research goals in focus. 

Nudge yourself

As we’ve already noted, it’s really easy to forget about your online study or keep moving it to the bottom of your ‘to-do’ list. Try setting up some cues and motivators to stop this happening! For example:

  • Create a study plan with deadlines so you can track and tick off your progress as you complete lessons and modules. 
  • Use a free online tool like Trello to benefit from email or desktop reminders when your deadlines are coming up. 
  • Put a ‘meeting’ in your calendar once a week or twice a month so that you have designated time to study in. 
  • Try setting the Nature Masterclasses website (or other training website) as your ‘homepage’ for a visual reminder every time you open your browser! 
  • Reward yourself when you’ve completed a set number of lessons or modules.

Find a friend (or two!)

Studying with friends or colleagues can both help to keep you motivated and get more out of your online training. 

Arranging to study at the same time as a friend, or for you both to have completed certain lessons or modules by a particular deadline, can really help to keep you on track as you can offer each other words of encouragement or (gentle!) reminders if one of you starts to fall behind.  

You might also find you get more out of your online training if you can discuss it with someone else - ask for help, discuss ‘grey areas’, and share resources to maximise your learning! 

Review and repeat

Finally, it’s worth scheduling in time to review lessons or modules that you’ve completed. Research shows that humans quickly start to forget new information (within hours!) if they don’t take time to review it or apply it - this is known as the ‘Ebbinghaus forgetting curve’.

Our courses are designed to help you review and practice concepts as you go along so that they stay in your long-term memory, but it’s worth revising lessons or exploring ‘Further reading’ resources at regular intervals to help you keep your newly-developed knowledge and skills at the front of your mind!


Contact us to discuss how you can offer online courses to your lab or university.


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Online learning tips