You want to go back to school, either to pursue a new career path or to enhance your knowledge of a particular subject. You have the drive and the ambition, but there's a roadblock to your success. Perhaps you work a full-time job and your work schedule conflicts with class times. Maybe you have a spouse and children who need you quite a bit, so leaving the house for hours at a time is not possible. Whatever your reason, traditional in person class instruction may not be an option for you. Luckily, the emergence of technology tailored to alternative methods of education may provide you with a viable alternative. The availability of online programs has skyrocketed in the past decade, and much of the stigma attached to earning a degree online has faded. But online education presents its own set of challenges, and your success in your chosen program will hinge on how well you deal with these issues.
Things You Will NeedA computer, Internet access, and an lot of determination
Step 1Do a lot of research about available programs.
All online degree programs are not created equal. Some are as reputable as other quality in person programs, while others are fairly criticized as too easy and inadequate. Make sure that whatever program you choose is accredited. Even if you do not want to transfer to a different university from the beginning, you may want to later, and attending an unaccredited university may make that impossible. You do not want to handicap your job search by an attending an institution that will make potential employers doubt your abilities.
Step 2Examine your reason for pursuing an online degree.
A student who finds online education appealing because he wants to attend class in his bathrobe can succeed in a degree program. However, if you approach your school search with a clear understanding of why online education is a suitable choice for you, you are more likely to make clear-headed decisions and to do well in the program of your choice.
Step 3Make sure you have the temperament for online classes.
If you are easily distracted or prone to procrastination, online classes may not be the right choice. Many people simply thrive in a a more structured in person classroom. Completing your coursework from home can be especially challenging if your attempts to study are constantly interrupted by television, music, Internet surfing, or a host of other distractions. Disciplined, organized people thrive in online class environments.
Step 4Do not treat your online program casually.
An online degree program from a reputable institution is designed to be as rigorous as a similar in person program. This means that the assignments, discussions, and expectations are likely to be just as stringent as those in any other program. If you treat your classes as if they are less important or less difficult because they are online, you will not succeed.
Step 5Make an effort to participate in class.
In an in person classroom, students interact with one another, and with their professors, as a matter of course. In an online environment, this interaction is less assured, but no less important. Your classroom software will offer you the opportunity to talk with your classmates and your instructor. Use this tool extensively. These interactions will provide you with valuable connections, and will introduce you to viewpoints other than your own. You may also find yourself with a few new friends.
Step 6Familiarize yourself with the intricacies of your classroom environment.
No matter how self-assured or intellectually gifted you are, your attempts to succeed in an online classroom will be stymied if you don't understand the basics of the software your professor is using. Your university will almost certainly offer a tutorial. Even if you don't think you need it, examine it carefully and save it for later use.
Step 7Be organized.
Make sure you are absolutely clear on the expectations for your assignments. Write down deadlines as soon as you they are available. Keep careful notes and organize your coursework in an easy to understand system. Back-up your computer frequently. If you have a large paper due in 10 minutes, the last thing you want is to realize that you've lost two weeks of work and have nothing to show for it.
Step 8Keep your goals in mind.
Even the most ambitious person will occasionally find themselves stretched too thin. When this happens, you may be tempted to put off your classwork. Tend to your responsibilities at home and at work, but treat your program as a priority as well. Make sure you set aside time each day to study. If you put off your homework, you will find yourself hopelessly behind. There is no question that completing classes online feels very different from attending traditional classes. The classroom material, however, is the same. The opportunities for advancement and achievement in an online classroom environment are available to you. With a combination of determination and strong discipline, you can achieve any academic goal that appeals to you.