17 Tips for Online Education Success
Earning your college degree online gives you the flexibility to achieve your career goals, wherever you are and on your own terms. However, an online education is no less demanding than traditional classroom education.
Distance learners must be highly organized and self-motivated, perhaps even more so than students in on-campus classrooms. Here are some important and handy tips—and a glossary of online education terms—to increase your online education success!
Online Education Success Starts at Home
To get your online continuing education started right, it’s important to properly prepare yourself and your home for the new endeavor. Here are some good ways to begin:
1. Understand the time commitment involved in online education
Estimate how much homework and online time you will need to set aside each week, and make sure you account for this in your daily and weekly schedule. Generally, each online class will require between five to 20 hours of work per week, depending on the number of credits earned, the degree program and your previous knowledge on the subject.
2. Get the right equipment
It’s crucial to have the right equipment and technology for your online education class. At the very least, you should have reliable access to an up-to-date computer and a high-speed Internet connection. Depending on the course or degree program, you may need other specific software too—some of which may be available to students through the school’s website or server.
3. Create a study station
Working from the comfort of your own home has its benefits—and its dangers! You’ll need a private study area where you will be free from distractions and where you can set up your computer and other course materials. If you make a space apart from the hubbub of other activities and where others know not to disturb you, you’ll be able to stay more focused and get the most out of your studying time.
4. Make a daily routine
Setting up a daily studying routine will help you stay current with your course work and keep you from feeling swamped as deadlines approach. As part of this schedule, it’s recommended that you log into your course at least three to five days a week to read new postings, respond to emails and look for new assignments and updates. Establishing a consistent and ongoing study rhythm will help you stay on top of your work, keep you connected to the class and give you the stamina you need to be successful.
5. Mark your calendar
Make a plan, and make your calendar your best friend. Write down each class’s major deadlines, your weekly schedule and even your projected online degree completion dates. This will help you prioritize and budget time in the short-term, as well as help you keep moving forward towards your long-range goals.
6. Know your own learning style
You can boost the positive and minimize the negative when you know your own learning strengths, weaknesses and habits. If you know you tend to procrastinate, make sure you establish a solid study routine that will keep you on task. If you’re inclined towards written communication and verbal exchange, the methods of most online education classes will already be well matched to your learning style.
7. Get familiar with learning online
Even before your first class begins, familiarize yourself with your school’s online education resources, the software that will be used for classes and discussions and each class’s technology and communication methods. Many schools provide an online tutorial to show new students how to access and get comfortable with everything. Some schools also offer a basic intro class to learn the online ropes before taking on a full academic load.
8. Take notes
This might seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering—taking well organized notes will help you succeed in both physical and online education classroom settings. Taking notes on new vocabulary words, key concepts, important procedures and any questions you have along the way will be especially useful when taking part in discussions and studying for exams.
One of the unique aspects of online degree education is its focus on interaction and communication to facilitate effective learning. To take full advantage of online classes, you must be an active participant – there’s no sitting in the back, hoping not to be called on. Get in there and engage, discuss and collaborate.
10. Speak freely
For some students, traditional classrooms can be fraught with social and public speaking anxieties. However, the unique format of the online education learning environment minimizes many types of social pressure. Your instructor and classmates will know you primarily through your words and ideas, so go ahead and freely express yourself as a valuable part of the class.
11. Think before you respond
Another benefit of getting your college degree online is that it gives you a chance to reflect on the material you read before having to respond. Outside of real-time conferencing and chats, online learning is structured so you can clearly craft your thoughts before presenting them. Make sure you take this time, improving your writing and communication skills along the way.
12. Learn from your peers
Online education is not only a chance to learn from the instructor’s expertise, but also a chance to meet and learn from your class peers. Online students have a wide variety of career and life experiences to offer each other. Take advantage of this opportunity for networking and helpful exchange.
13. Speak up if you need help
Remember that if you are having problems, it’s up to you to ask questions and let your instructor know. Most likely there are other students who also share your confusion, so by speaking up you can help everybody. Instructors in a physical classroom can read a confused face and offer clarification—but online, you have to be assertive and ask for the help you need.
14. Mind your manners
Email, instant messaging and other types of online communication are often used informally—but when used for online degree learning, keep in mind that you are engaged in a serious educational activity requiring respect. Remember that emotional tone is hard to convey without the sound of your voice—what you meant to be funny might come across as rude or aggressive when written.
15. Know your goals
Do you want a certificate or degree to help you advance or begin a new career? Do you want to increase your skills for a better position or a higher paycheck? Are you ready to finish something you started long ago, or explore a new subject that’s always intrigued you? No matter what your goals are, being able to clearly state those to yourself and others will help you stay motivated and engaged with your online learning.
16. Get support
Ask your friends, family and colleagues to support you in achieving your education goals. It’s up to you to do the course work and learn all you need to learn, but having the moral and practical support of those around you can make a big difference.
17. Take your online education and yourself seriously
When you take your online education seriously, you will be able to reap serious results. Making a commitment to your education is making a commitment to yourself. With careful planning and focus on your long-range goals, you too can achieve success with online degree learning.