Find a workspace that is quiet and free of distractions.
You no longer have to live near a campus to study for an advanced degree. The popularity of online learning is increasing, with a Babson Survey Research Group survey finding that, in 2015, some 28 percent of students across the U.S. who were studying for a higher education program took one or more classes virtually, the Online Learning Consortium reported. The uptick in those opting to study remotely can be credited to a number of factors. Some of the most prominent, according to an article from Franklin University, include the freedom to study at more convenient times, as well as ease of access – all students need to enter the digital classroom is a computer and reliable WiFi connection. Furthermore, online learning is often a more cost-effective choice, as tuition tends to be cheaper and other costs are also eliminated, such as travel or on-campus housing.
If you have decided to study online, you may be uncertain how to navigate the differences this way of learning presents. Indeed, you may be wondering – what does it take to succeed as an online student? While there is no secret formula to success, there are a number of strategies that you can employ to ensure that you achieve your maximum potential while studying online. Read on to discover more.
1. Work out your schedule
The most important first step is to figure out how your studies will fit into your current schedule. This means looking at your class timetable and noting what assignments are due and when. Use this information to then plan the times and days that you can afford to set aside for studying and academic work. For example, if you work full time during the week you will have to set aside weekends and evenings. If you have a more flexible job, however, you may be able to find time to study during the day.
An article from U.S. News & World Report included an interview with online student Lionel Finley, who studied virtually at Wake Forest University. He elaborated on the above advice, explaining how he had to adjust his schedule in accordance with the demands of his degree program.
"I had to change around my entire schedule to complement my course," he explained. "I'm using Microsoft Outlook more than ever to set up when projects are due and to stay on track with the assignments. You have to dedicate time to this."
2. Keep organized
When it comes to online learning, you'll have less guidance from the professor to keep you on track. Put another way, it's up to you to ensure that you stay on top of your studies and keep up with the work. A major component of success in this area is organization. Examples of good organization, according to Southern Arkansas University, include keeping your notes all in one place, either in a paper or computer-based folder, and having key dates written down in your diary. It is also helpful to set aside a study space, such as a dining room, study or bedroom, that is kept neat and devoid of clutter. If your desk is messy and you're unable to locate important papers, you'll find it more difficult to focus and study.
3. Communicate often
Just because you are learning online doesn't mean you can't build strong professional relationships with both your professors and peers. As detailed by Villanova University, all online courses will offer ways for you to communicate with others in your course. This typically takes the form of an online discussion board, or perhaps even an instant messaging service. Email is another important means of communication. Be sure to reach out frequently to your professor to ask for feedback and guidance, and try your hardest to build a rapport with others in your course. Just be sure to remain polite and professional at all times, just as you would during in-person interactions.
4. Ensure your technology is up to speed
It goes without saying that a computer and WiFi connection are basic essentials for an online course, but there is a chance you may need to download additional software and other important tools, an article from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explained. It is important to find this out ahead of time – if you begin your class but are unable to download the special tools or software needed, you'll be in trouble. Before classes begin ensure that your technology is up to speed and that the required platforms work on your computer. This way you'll have time to rectify any problems before the class starts.
5. Look after yourself
Working toward an advanced degree can be stressful at the best of times, but it can be particularly trying if you're studying online while holding down a job and juggling other responsibilities. That's why, as advised by Southern Arkansas University, it is crucial to find the time to not only relax, but also to look after your health. Tips include exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet and getting as much sleep as your schedule allows.