Nearly seven million students attended college online, according to findings from the National Center for Education Statistics on the 2018 fall semester. It is likely that number will increase with the unknown fate of campus life due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A common mistake people make is assuming online classes are easier or don’t require a heavy time commitment. As an online student for nearly five years, I learned a set of basics required to succeed in the virtual environment — and the practices should be put into play before the first day of school.
There are several reasons adults choose to go to school. Whatever that reason may be, one thing is certain throughout this journey: managing a course load as a nontraditional student is slightly different than doing it straight out of high school. When you are raising a family, dealing with deployment or working full time, just to name a few, it’s easy to lose focus and remember why you even started.
Making the choice to go back to school can be a lot of trial and error, and that’s OK. The upside to that is as responsible adult we have a better concept of how to balance our professional and personal lives. Based on my own experiences, I have collected several tips that I have found helpful for managing life and academic studies successfully, as well as staying organized in the process.
Learn the technology
This may seem like a no-brainer, but taking an online class involves learning a new technology and possibly using a new platform. The courses, discussions and assignments are all completed in an online platform, so getting familiar with the technology at the very beginning of your course is essential. You don’t want to wait until the day your first paper is due to figure out how everything works. Login a few days before your class starts and play around in the platform, familiarize yourself with the syllabus, objectives and where the documents are housed.
Get to know your professors
Reach out to your professor as soon as you can, most likely as you are logged in and learning the technology. Send them a quick email to introduce yourself and let them know why you’re excited for the course. Starting a conversation, providing full transparency and having a good relationship with your professors will be beneficial to you as an online student and in your future career or graduate studies.
Make a schedule, stick to it
Now that you are in school, your schedule needs to be extended and arranged. Determine what time of day school time fits in best. Whether it is early in the morning before anyone is up, or late at night after the kids are in bed, set times on your calendar daily for assignments, reading, tests and any other school work that needs to get done. Don’t cram in what you can with the few spare minutes you may have. Plan ahead and set your schedule weekly, this way you know what you have going on for the week and what you can and can’t do. Most importantly, make sure your family and friends are aware of your schedule. Be open and honest, learn to say no if it interferes with your school schedule and deadlines.
If you were attending classes on a campus, you would ensure you were organized and had all the proper supplies, right? Online students need to be just as prepared, if not even more so online studies require more discipline. Make sure you have a dedicated spot where you can work quietly and keep all your supplies needed at hand. Set up a file structure on your computer that will clearly divide your assignments so that you can find them easily and keep up-to-date with your school work.
Plan, don’t procrastinate
As much as you truly think you work better under pressure, don’t ever push back a school deadline. In the online world, expect for something to go wrong and plan ahead for something to not go as planned. Use your course syllabus at the beginning of the semester and draft a schedule that highlights all your major assignments, exams, work deadlines and course milestones. Then force yourself to stick to that schedule, building up your powers of self-discipline.
Don’t get distracted
This can mean so many different things – checking your emails, Facebook, Twitter, text messages. These tasks take up so much time! When you are trying to study and your phone rings, do you ignore it or answer it? Don’t even think twice about it; shut it off before starting any school work. Stop the distractions before they start.
Ultimately, the best way to be successful as an online student is to figure out what works for you, and stick to it. Adjust as needed along the way and don’t let the chaos of everyday life throw you off task, stay focused and always remember the end goal you want to accomplish.Read comments