Online higher education has come a long way from its early days of offering limited degrees at just a handful of universities. There’s never been a better time to make the decision to earn your degree online, with over 15% of college students currently engaging in online coursework. A recent report by Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research showed that 85% of online learning is done by adults ages 25 and up.
Online learning is a flexible and creative way to continue your education without putting your life on hold. It’s the ideal option for parents, full-time workers, part-time workers, those with hectic and inconsistent schedules, and anyone in between. But online learning isn’t quick or easy and those who pursue it should be prepared for the challenges it presents. We’ve compiled a list of tips to prepare prospective students for online learning success.
- Introduce Yourself – Online learning isn’t meant to be a form of solitary confinement. Talk to your professor and never feel as though you can’t ask questions. Ask them. Ask lots of them. There will also be group chat sessions and group assignments, and you should expect that over the course of each semester, you’ll get to know quite a few of your classmates well, some of whom will end up as lifelong friends. As you bond over scheduling woes and class gossip, you’ll forge friendships based on hard work and dedication.
- Read (and Reread) the Syllabus – One of the reasons you showed interest in online learning was because of the flexibility of scheduling. The best way to ensure that you aren’t in for an unpleasant surprise is by noting down all of the due dates on your syllabus. Put them on your calendar or in your phone – wherever you’ll see them regularly. That way, you won’t be surprised when a twelve-page term paper is due the same day as your best friend’s wedding. The syllabus is a great tool that allows you to plan your entire semester, but if you don’t pay attention, your performance could suffer.
- Don’t Procrastinate – One of the most difficult aspects of online learning is self-discipline. Keeping motivated to sit down, log in, and view the assigned materials is especially challenging when the sun is shining, a warm breeze is blowing through the open window, and you get a call from a friend asking if you’re free. It’s oh-so-tempting, but staying on top of the workload is a major factor in online learning success. You’ll need to be able to push aside the temptations and focus on “the big picture.”
- Bring Your Coursework into Your Life – The best way to retain what you’ve learned is by applying it to your everyday life. It’s easy to memorize facts, ace a test, then promptly forget everything you learned. Applying concepts from your coursework to your job, to current events, or to your spouse’s latest workplace story is a great way to ensure you’re getting the most out of the education you’ve put so much hard work into.
- Have a Support Team – John Donne once said “No man is an island.” Truer words have never been spoken. Online learning is only successful if you’ve got a great support team who can help you out with the day-to-day responsibilities like household chores, childcare, and workplace assignments. Rely on friends and family to help you get through the tough parts of each semester and encourage them to hold you accountable. In the end, they’ll feel almost as much a sense of accomplishment as you will when you’ve got that diploma in hand.
- Believe and You can Achieve – Above all, always believe in yourself. No matter how difficult an assignment or a course, the biggest measure of success is your ability to believe in yourself. You can succeed, and you will.