Even as thousands of students head back to college campuses nationwide, enrollment in online courses continues to grow.
For students starting online courses, it’s important to set yourself up for success – particularly if you work full or part time and juggle other family and personal responsibilities. Get a head start by thinking through your personal and online course schedules, organizing your materials and identifying a solid support structure.
[Learn how to assess online program course scheduling options.]
Here are a few tips to help online students get organized before beginning classes.
1. Identify a study space: While online education is flexible, it’s still important to designate a specific place to complete your work.
Find one that’s free of distractions, where you can focus and with little to no background noise, since you may have proctored exams recorded via webcam, for example. For some, it’s a home office; for others it’s a desk in their bedroom, the kitchen table or a break room at work.
Regardless, ensure your workspace remains uncluttered and has a reliable power source and a strong internet connection. You will need to complete your assignments electronically, and instructors may require you to regularly log in to the online classroom or complete group work virtually. Find what works best for you and stick to it.
2. Commit to a structured schedule: Online courses are a significant commitment, and managing your time is critical.
Designate specific time frames to complete your schoolwork each day or week, and block off your calendar accordingly. If you work during the week, consider using a day during the weekend to finish.
It could also help you to have a calendar in your study space so your school obligations are all in one place and top of mind. Keep an eye on assignment due dates. Even though online courses are often considered self-paced, set assignment deadlines still exist. Because many online students also have jobs, it may be helpful to sync your work and school calendars so you can prepare for each day accordingly.
[Decide between live or self-paced online classes.]
3. Develop a mutual understanding with your support system: Earning your degree online is not easy. Surrounding yourself with family, friends and peers who motivate and encourage you can make a difference.
Make sure those close to you understand the time you have committed to earning your online degree so they remain respectful and understand when you’re unavailable. Consider providing them with an overview of your school schedule at the beginning of the term to remain transparent and help ensure you receive the support you need.
4. Connect with your professors early: Establishing a relationship with your professorsearly on will help you build trust and understanding throughout the term, especially since you may not be able to meet in person.
It’s important to connect before the course begins or shortly after to clear up any questions you have about the syllabus or requirements. This will show you have a vested interest in the course and are committed to successfully completing it regardless of your other obligations.
The takeaway: Completing online courses requires discipline and structure. By mapping out an effective plan, you can have a positive experience and be one step closer to earning your degree.