How to Get the Most Out of Your Online Learning Experience
Going to an accredited online college allows you to save money as well as choose a more flexible class schedule. But there are some challenges to getting your degree online as well. How can you ensure you get the most out of your online degree? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Attend Classes and Participate in Discussions
When you go to school online, you often have the option of “attending” classes by watching pre-recorded lectures and doing reading and work on your own time. However, if you can attend classes in real time by logging into your account and participating in group discussions, this is a much better option! Attending classes helps you to grasp the material better and you can hear opinions and questions from your fellow classmates which may have never initially crossed your mind.
Group discussions are conducted through an Internet-based discussion tool such as web forums, blogs, and instant messaging. Each school has its own instructional tools so make sure you are well-acquainted with their format.
Learn to Budget Your Time Well
Attending school online is great for students who want more academic freedom, but you also have to learn from the start how to budget your time. Without a firm schedule like you’d have at a traditional college, it can be easy to procrastinate, putting off work until the end of the semester. From day one, stay on top of your workload by scheduling time into your daily routine to complete reading assignments, write papers, participate in group chats, watch videos, and otherwise do your classwork. Depending on your living situation, make sure that other family members or roommates know when you need alone time to get studying done. A general rule of thumb is two hours of studying for every hour in class.
You might want to consider asking your colleagues for tips on how to stay organized and on track with your studies. Each student has their own individual learning plan, but sometimes it helps to ask for advice if you find yourself behind or overwhelmed. Likewise, don’t overschedule, either in life or in class. Yes, you want to finish your degree as quickly as possible, but it’s better to do it the right way than the fast way. Plus, if you take just one less class a semester, that frees up the time to join an extracurricular or volunteer somewhere, two activities that are just as important for not just your resume but your well-being too.
You may also want to consider getting an internship. Think about why it is you chose to go for your education online. Most likely, it is to balance work and school. Depending on the nature and timing of your job, try to look for possible internship programs, especially towards your last semester of school. Some internships are paid, but more importantly, they have the advantage of leading to a full time job after graduation.
Get to Know Your Professors
At a traditional college, you’ll meet your professors face-to-face and also be able to meet with them during office hours. However, when you’re attending school online, you might never do more than exchange a few emails with your professor. Change that! Make sure you introduce yourself, go to virtual “office hours” to ask questions about the classwork, and get to know the people teaching your classes. When a professor knows you, they’ll be more invested in your education, and you’ll have a better overall experience.
Additionally, there are so many other ways to interact with those that can provide wisdom, guidance, or just someone to chat with. Twitter and other social media are a great way to reach out and talk with people you never imagined was possible. Likewise, websites like Open Culture and other MOOCs have free videos from college courses around the country on a myriad of subjects. Don’t just be a student on the Internet: be a student of the Internet.
Like with traditional brick and mortar colleges, online schools often have you fulfill elective requirements, which allows you to take any classes you want. Rather than taking an easier class just to meet graduation requirements, challenge yourself. Learn something new that has always interested you, even if it is unrelated to your degree, or take some advanced-level courses that do pertain to what you want to do in the future, but may not be required as part of your education.
Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of your game:
- Take the initiative: Put yourself out there and get what you want on your own. Earning a college degree takes perseverance and motivation.
- Take classes outside of your major: Since you will most likely need to take elective courses, why not take something you’ve never studied before but have always been interested in? Even if it appears to not be a practical course to take, it’ll illuminate your personality and diverse interests.
- Start a blog: Why not document your online learning experience by starting a blog? This is a great way to connect with other learners.
- Join a club: Many online schools offer clubs and organizations. Even though meetings are held online, joining a club will enhance your college experience.
- Stay physically fit: When your body is in a state of stress, physical activity can help relieve tension and anxiety. And college students definitely have a lot of stress factors in their lives.
- Print out study materials: If this is at all a possibility, do this! Whether it’s just a syllabus or a reading assignment, it’ll be a great future resource to save and have. It’ll also give your eyes a break from staring at a computer all day and night.
If you want to succeed in your education, implement these tips whenever possible. Education is all about self-motivation and self-discipline, and that’s even more true when going to school online. You may not be distracted by campus and dorm life, but there’s plenty more online to take the job of that. Concentrate on your goals: you’ll be glad you did.