Many students choose online classes because they afford the flexibility of scheduling classes around work, family and other personal obligations. Online courses offer the convenience of learning around your own schedule, but along with the higher level of autonomy comes greater responsibility. In fact, online classes require you to exercise an abundance of self-discipline, dedication and time-management. To some accustomed to traditional methods of learning, online learning can be an adjustment. With some extra preparation and following these helpful hints, you’ll be positioned to succeed in online classes.
1. Create a study schedule.
Sure, you aren't traveling to the classroom at a specific time each day. But that doesn’t mean you cannot create your own personal study schedule. Carve out blocks of time to devote to each course and stick to the schedule. If you are studying from home, post your schedule in a prominent location of the house that can be easily viewed by family or roommates. Share your schedule with friends, family and others who are close to you so they have a clear understanding of when you are available to chat, text and interact. By creating a schedule and setting boundaries, you will find you are less distracted and more easily able to focus on your learning objectives.
2. Find a study space that suits your needs.
Whether it is your favorite coffee shop, a home office or a break room at work, find a space that you are best able to concentrate and complete your coursework. Wherever you choose to study, make sure you have a reliable Internet connection. Let those around you know that you are engaged in learning and should not be disturbed. Can’t avoid a busy study environment? A a good pair of headphones might do the trick. If you find yourself going a little stir-crazy in your usual study spot, a change of scenery may be just what you need to get back on track. Make note of nearby locations that offer free wi-fi, such as your local public library, coffee shop, or recreation center. That way you’ll have more than one option if you suddenly find your usual learning space has been infringed upon by your loveable, yet demanding children or that chatty roommate who slows down your bandwidth streaming cat videos.
3. Stay up to speed on technology.
Beyond making sure your home, office or other study space has a good Internet connection, you will also need to familiarize yourself with the latest educational technology used by your college or university. Make sure your web browser is up-to-date and that you have downloaded the necessary software required by your instructor. Many courses require you to utilize a variety of educational technology tools. Prior to the start of the semester, find out which tools your instructor will require you to use and familiarize yourself with them ahead of time. Avoid crunch time, when an assignment is due, to realize your equipment is not able to handle the technology demands to properly complete the assignment. It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by new technology, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while. Remember to breath. New technology can be intimidating at first, but most institutions with online programs have faculty and free IT help support to assist you.
4. Get to know your instructor.
Just because you aren’t taking a front-row seat three times a week in a traditional classroom doesn’t mean you can’t be a front-row student. Take an active role in building relationships with your instructors. At the start of the semester, email your instructors to introduce yourself. Keep lines of communication open. Ask questions when you don’t fully understand an assignment and give feedback when you particularly like an assignment or find an activity problematic. These strategies allow the instructor to fine-tune the online course and better understand the students’ needs, including yours. Many instructors hold online office hours where you can get some face time via webcam. Keep in mind, building meaningful connections with your online instructor can be valuable down the line when you need them to provide letters of reference for your internships or job applications.
5. Interact with your peers.
Stumped on an assignment? There is no reason to feel alone. Many classes offer online forums, discussion boards and other ways to interact with your fellow classmates in a virtual group setting. You can get creative and organize a class Facebook group, Google+hangout or come up with a unique twitter hashtag for your class. Having the support of other students going through the same experience will give you an outlet to ask questions, exchange ideas, and can ultimately help you gain confidence in your study methods and work product.