Why Self Discipline Helps Learning

Why Self Discipline Helps Learning

The pitfalls of “Anytime, Anywhere”

Advancements in internet technology have allowed the online learning industry to become more popular than ever. Many people who have jobs and children prefer to educate themselves online by using e-learning tools as well as online universities.

Anytime, anywhere is the eLearning motto, yet it also hides the most insidious pitfall built in the very fabric of eLearning: that it allows to move faster through the study material and this may jeopardize the whole learning experience.

Always available online lessons lower the entry barrier towards education, but may cross the border making learning apparently easier. As an unwanted side effect it’s also become more difficult for people to practice patience and self-discipline in learning and studying new things, because messages and information is easier and faster to access.

Not only that, but with online courses, the structure is usually set up for a person to learn on their own time, usually with a general pre-set schedule. Allowing someone the option to learn at their own pace gives them more control in the overall outcome of their educational experience.

The challenge of Time and the desire to hurry

One of the biggest challenges for any student is time. As mentioned, online courses will typically select a pre-set schedule with an outline of dates for tasks to be complete. Examples of course tasks could be things like, lessons to be read, quizzes to be taken, or papers to be submitted.

No matter what the task, typically a student is granted the ability to work ahead if they want to. For people pressed for time, this can sometimes lead to rushing the course and skimming the lessons just to get by.

While this may benefit the student at the time because they were able to make more room in their busy schedule, they may not have gotten the best educational grasp of the content. This may immediately lead to a worse grade or evaluation overall for the course.

Why self discipline helps

Self-discipline in learning new things is a hard thing to practice and usually takes a lot of tenacity and patience. Many people look for the immediate gratification of finishing a course quickly, but if they really take out more time to spend on reading, applying the techniques and asking questions, the delayed gratification of a better, wholesome education will be worth it.

They will enter the virtuous circle of iterative improvement, learning step by step and acquiring knowledge rather than just obtaining informations.

Discipline looks like a lack of freedom, that’s why so many adult learners find so difficult to cope with it. But self discipline is the most authentic form of freedom, and that’s why it’s so difficult for many people to take action according to this principle.

Accepting deferred gratification solves the problem

Many times, it involves sacrificing the immediate pleasure for what truly matters in the end. But in a well structured course, reaching the goal by taking shortcuts is not possible because each and every lesson grows in complexity as the course progresses.

A well-structured course is built upon the concept of increasing complexity. By taking a shortcut the student is not prepared to handle the most complex material.

A well-structured course is built upon the concept of increasing complexity. By taking a shortcut the student is not prepared to handle the most complex material and faces failure.

If you are someone that either is involved in online education, or is looking to start taking new courses, here are some steps to take for practicing self-discipline in learning:

  • Follow the pre-set schedule assigned by your instructor
    If there are predefined dates to watch a lesson or take a quiz, it’s important to stay as close to that schedule as possible. This will help keep people on track, and from working ahead.
  • Never just skim over your reading material
    Reading a chapter of an online textbook may not take the amount of time that it was originally scheduled for on the preset calendar. But a person should practice ways to expand their learning because they will only comprehend so much by reading text. Create a habit of reading that chapter again, or watching again the video lesson, even taking extensive notes, if necessary. In short, do whatever it takes to truly understand and comprehend the lesson, before you move to the next.
  • Practice what you have learned
    Practicing the subject is essential to reach a deep understanding. Even if the lesson does not require an Assignment to be completed, making an outline of the lesson’s key points and fleshing them out with your own experiments is another very rewarding approach. This is especially useful in the context of Visual Effects and 3D Graphics learning, where each project completed can become the basis for a preliminary showreel.
  • Take your time when completing assignments, taking tests or answering quizzes
    It may be very easy for someone to breeze through a short quiz or paper, but it’s recommended to really take a good amount of time when working through assignments, tests, or other projects. This allows a person to thoroughly read any instructions, take any notes if necessary, and make the best decisions. When a person rushes through an assignment, it will increase the chance of missing important details and could ultimately affect their final grade or evaluation.

Goals are reached faster by moving slowly

Remember the “Holtzman effect” powering Dune’s fictional energy shields? They can protect from fast moving projectiles, but a well maneuvered knife will pass through them. They represent a metaphor of persuasion versus brutality, skill versus strength, strategy versus improvisation.

Learning is a matter of strategy, everything in learning revolves around the power of planning and executing the plan.

By practicing patience and self-discipline while learning, a person will be sacrificing that immediate gratification of finishing early or fast, for a more substantial educational experience. The outcome of the course will most likely be more favorable as well.

The grade or evaluation may be higher than it would be otherwise. This type of scenario plays well into the concept of deferred gratification. This refers to the idea that if a person resists the temptation of immediate satisfaction or in some cases, a reward, they will generally receive a larger and better reward down the line.

So when talking about someone’s personal education, if they are patient and work hard enough, they will reach their goals and even more than they ever expected. Self-discipline in learning is the first step to a fulfilling education and career ahead.


  1. I have worked remotely for years and prefer it because it is more efficient and larger volumes of work can be completed in less time. There are no interruptions as there can be in an office environment. It requires a great deal of self-discipline to be able to commit to the work but in the end is very rewarding.

  2. Not sure what comment I’m supposed to put here but here’s one.

    I sure wish UNOH was more focused on their online students. This comment comes from what other colleges do to assist their online students.

  3. Great article for a first time online student.

  4. You need to be able to inform someone on the subject. So if you by pass and only skim the lesson you will not be able to properly educate the person on the subject.

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