Congratulations! You’ve decided to pursue your higher education, and doing so online is the way to go if you are interested in a flexible, student-centered teaching approach. Studying online allows you to pursue other interests and attend to other obligations while still working your way toward a degree. However, this can sometimes mean that it’s easy to get distracted. Here are 10 easy steps to ensure success in your online classes.
1. Connect with your instructors as soon as possible.
Even if you are doing well in the class, it’s extremely important to build up a rapport with your instructor. When you do this early on, you quickly realize what the priorities are in the course, what expectations the professor has of you; and you will be motivated to succeed, surer of what’s ahead and better prepared to do well with the upcoming material.
Valuable questions to ask your instructor include the following:
- How flexible are you with deadlines?
- How flexible are you with adult learners?
- What technologies do you use in the course?
- How available are you by email and other forms of communication?
- How do you set up an online community and what are the expectations for participation in it?
In addition, since instructors are available to help throughout the courses, it’s always good to have had personal contact with the instructor early on. This way, when you need help, it’s easier to reach out and get the assistance you need.
2. Confirm the technical requirements of the course.
Online classes can be very beneficial for students with busy schedules, but only if they can easily access the materials. It is important to clearly understand what the technical requirements are. So, before the course starts or as soon thereafter as possible, be sure to check that your computer will work with all the online tools, and that you know how to navigate them. This will ensure that you don’t have to spend time during the course trying to figure out the technology.
3. Create a schedule and stick to it.
Quality online instructors create courses that are easy to navigate and have clear expectations. Having that kind of easy-to-deal-with framework in place will make studying and succeeding that much easier. However, even if the framework and requirements of your class are not as clear, you can create a schedule and structure, which will greatly improve your chances of success in the course. Using tools such as Google Calendar is a great way to start. Knowing how your weeks and months look and scheduling blocks of study time for each task or module will help you stick to a schedule.
4. Ask questions – always.
When you don’t understand, ask questions. When you do understand, ask further questions. Instructors appreciate students who participate, and if there is a participation or discussion component part of the grade, then asking quality questions helps assure your grade in this area. Even if there is not a participation component, it is always useful to ask questions to make sure you understand the material and are clear on what is required of you.
5. Be organized – and stay organized.
Students who are taking traditional, campus-based courses usually have a consistent schedule to follow each week, in which classroom instruction is followed by assignments outside the class. However, for online courses, students may have to find their own ways to stay on top of their work. It is imperative that you be organized from the beginning of the semester in order to be successful in an online course. For example: mark assignment due dates in your calendar, find a filing system for both online material and physical material that helps you keep track of everything easily, and make clear study schedules that cover sections of the course separately so you have an organized tactic to covering the semester’s material as you go along.
6. Have a clean, quiet, and consistent workspace.
One thing online and in-class courses have in common is that students always need a place to study or complete assignments that is clean, quiet, and consistent. You can choose where this is for you – whether it’s at a coffee shop, a school library, a dedicated office, or at home. Wherever you choose to study and complete assignments, you should make it a consistent location that does not have outside distractions. It is absolutely key that the place is quiet and allows you to focus on your work without distractions.
7. Do not procrastinate.
Successful distance learners rarely procrastinate. They don’t put off assignments or wait until the last moment to write their papers. Successful online students enjoy freedoms that include working at their own pace and the ability to complete their work in as much time as it takes them. On the other hand, they know that completing their assignments is best done early and on time – cramming simply doesn’t work, and it doesn’t help you retain information long-term. Get started early on getting successful.
8. Work on your reading comprehension.
Successful distance learners tend to have good reading comprehension skills. Most traditional, campus-based students listen to lectures and take notes, and some online courses also require this. However, the majority of distance learners are expected to master material through a considerable amount of reading. Although some distance learning courses offer video recordings and audio clips, most programs require students to cover and master a large amount of written information. If this is a difficulty for you, it would be very helpful to first enroll in a reading comprehension course – there are many resources online to help you do this. This skill alone can make an enormous difference in your success.
9. Establish and respect routines that work for you.
If, for example, you work best in the morning or in short bursts, then set study routines that allow you to study in the pre-lunch hours when your brain is fresh. If, on the other hand, you do best by studying at night or on the weekends when you can dedicate night-owl hours or longer blocks to your studying, then make it a point to do so. Consider how and when you work best, and implement a study plan that respects the routines that work for you.
10. Connect with your peers.
Establishing strong connections with peers and professors is an important aspect of educational success, as well as professional advancement. One of the most rewarding experiences in education is learning through collaboration. Forming meaningful relationships with your peers and professors can allow you to learn more, stay motivated, and have an outlet to express your own understanding of subject matter. So, stay connected through message boards, chat rooms, email, and other virtual resources. And remember – many of the people you meet in college will be possible job resources down the line – so establish connections and stay in touch!
Florida National University offers a wealth of educational and professional online courses. Check out all the options – your future is waiting!