Online classes offer many benefits for students who choose to complete some or all of their coursework outside of a traditional classroom. With lower costs and flexibility to complete work when and where the student wants, online degree programs allow professionals to earn the degree they need to advance their careers.
If you are pursuing or considering pursuing a degree online, here are some tips that will help you become a successful online learner.
- Understand the program’s technical requirements. Prior to the course start date, check the class syllabus or program website and make sure you understand the system and software requirements for the course. If you need to purchase or download software to participate, do so before the course begins. A reliable internet connection is needed for online learning, so take any needed steps to assure that you have access to one. If possible, log in to any systems and sites that will be used for the course and spend time familiarizing yourself with navigating through them so you will be proficient when the course begins.
- Plan a schedule. As you gain an understanding of your instructor’s expectations for participation, create a schedule for yourself. Determine how much time you need to spend each day doing coursework, and put that time on your calendar or into your daily schedule. Does the instructor want you to spend time participating on discussion boards commenting on class readings? Make sure you have enough time to complete assignments by spreading them out over all days, instead of trying to complete them all the day they are due.
- Use all materials available. Your instructor may provide links to audio or video clips, or suggest supplementary readings beyond the assigned textbook. Spend time watching, listening, or reading these materials. Incorporate them into your overall participation of the course. In the absence of classroom lectures, these extra materials provide added depth of understanding of the course subject matter.
- Consider your study environment. Online learning can be done anywhere with a good internet connection. But certain environments will allow for you to immerse yourself in your studies and gain the most from time spent on your classwork. If you are reading over discussion board responses in a crowded coffee shop, you may not be effectively considering the information to best prepare your own response. Find a quiet, dedicated space where you can set up a “learning zone” with your computer and textbooks, along with paper, pens, and highlighters for making notes and highlighting important information. Position your monitor to allow your neck and back to stay straight when viewing your screen. Choosing the right environment for your studies will allow you to be more effective in less time, and to consider and retain the information within the course materials.
- Take a break! When studying it is easy to become absorbed and not note how much time has passed. Additionally, online students may feel pressure to “push through” and get as much work done as possible within an allotted learning session. Resist the urge to soldier on without stepping away. Stepping away from your studies can prevent eye strain and allow you to consider what you have been learning. Take time to stretch, have a snack, connect with friends, family, or peers, and focus your eyes at something in the distance.