Know that Online University Learning is not Easy
Enrolling in an online university course with the mistaken belief that it will be easier, will not only cause you a great disappointment, it will set you up for failure. Online courses are often much more difficult than traditional classroom college courses. Since the teacher cannot assess your learning with in-class discussions, online discussions, multiple essays and numerous quizzes often take the place of classroom participation grades. In addition, you have to rely on your own ability to read, interpret and apply the material to do well on assignments and tests. Opportunities to speak directly with the teacher are limited, and sometimes impossible due to conflicts of schedule. Think of an online course as an independent study class with an immense amount of homework and you will set yourself up to succeed in the class.
Have Good Computer Skills
It is imperative that you know how to use basic word processing programs, database systems, email, attach or upload files, and have a familiarity of how internet message boards work. These are all routine elements of online university courses and therefore necessary skills for every online student. You will be signing into your university’s online databases to download instructional materials, upload papers, post answers to discussion questions, and to take tests and quizzes. Often these systems have glitches, which although simple to work around, will add to what you need to know about using computers. If every time you go to log into the online system it takes you 30 minutes just to figure out how to post a discussion, frustration will set in as you take more time than is necessary on a single class. This may also cause problems for you during timed quizzes or when trying to meet a posting or homework deadline. If the internet and basic computer programs worry you, then consider taking a basic computer skills course as your first venture into an online education.
Set a Schedule
When the online class starts, and in some cases before, the professor will post or email a schedule of when assignments will be due, as well as the various dates and times for tests and quizzes. The first thing to do is put these items into your calendar. Then schedule your study time into your calendar. Sticking to a study and homework schedule is vital to not only passing, but also excelling in an online degree program. Without classroom time, there is no catching up in an online class. Set a schedule and follow it so that you do not have the opportunity to fall behind.
Set Up a Workspace
Set up a work area that allows you to focus on your schoolwork. Taking classes from home is another “it will be easier” trap. The television and refrigerator, online social networks, video games, kids, family, and friends can be strong lures, often more appealing than studying for an online quiz. Create a workspace that is comfortable, but also helps you concentrate on your schoolwork and your computer for class information and participation. Sip coffee or tea and turn on some background white noise if these things help you focus. If you cannot set up a work area at home due to family or roommates that are not conducive to learning, then head out to a coffee shop or park that offers free wireless internet access.
Participate in online forum discussions beyond what is required. Participation will make you feel like you are part of the group. As part of the group, you will be more likely to feel like you are missing important information if do not check in regularly, helping to prevent you from slacking off. And it will make you stand out to the instructor who will likely evaluate each student’s online forum posts to determine their participation grade. Just be sure that you contribute relevant material to the discussion and not use it as a social networking site. Staying on task in an online course is as important as in a traditional course.
Know how and where to find answers to your questions that are not in the course material. Know how to research online and in a library. Do not be afraid to actively seek help when you need it. Call or email the teacher or other students when you need help. With online college courses, since you cannot simply ask during the next classroom session, you have to be resourceful when the course material has you stumped.
If you are naturally a resourceful, independent worker that enjoys learning through books and the internet and who rarely procrastinates, then you are already armed with all the tools you need to succeed in an online college class. However, if you are a social butterfly who craves the personal interaction of classmates, likes to learn from in-person discussions, with a tendency to wait until the last minute to complete assignments, then you may have more difficulty finding the motivation to “attend” classes. By knowing your own learning style you can then use these college study tips to adjust how you prepare and approach your online university course. This, and making a commitment to being self motivated and having a willingness to be part of a virtual classroom are key to becoming a successful online student.