Strategies for Success
More and more, adult learners like you are finding the convenience and flexibility of online learning a match for learning goals and busy lifestyles. Although you can easily locate an online course or degree program that's both convenient and accessible, you may face significant challenges in developing a new set of skills for this type of instruction. The next few pages include a few strategies to help you to be successful in online learning.
1. Develop a time-management strategy
One challenge that you may face as an online student is the self-discipline required to devote adequate time to courses that might not have regularly scheduled times to meet synchronously online or in person. You may find that establishing your own schedules for class time will help ensure enough time for class participation.
Developing a schedule that designates specific times to log in to and participate in class and to carry out other course-related activities such as reading and doing research will promote your success as an online learner. Some helpful time-management strategies include setting a schedule for study time and devoting time daily to the course.
A key difference between in-person and online learning is the independence and ability to participate in the online class at a time convenient to you. This also presents a potential problem, as procrastination may cause you to fall behind in the online course. Logging in to the course every day and checking for new postings or updates will help prevent you from falling behind.
You must discipline yourself to maintain a schedule and not allow any distractions to disrupt your plan. Allow one hour of winding down from work and eating dinner to prepare to study. An upfront planning process is critical to succeeding in online courses because studying will be integrated with many other responsibilities.
More Time Management resources are located under the next section called "Managing Your Time" page.
2. Make the most of online discussion.
Interaction mostly occurs through an online threaded discussion that allows you, your classmates, and instructors to interact in asynchronous time. This may be a significant shift for those accustomed to the spontaneity of in-class discussions. On the other hand, it may provide opportunities for richer dialogue through written discussion that allows you more time crafting your responses.
The instructor's role is important in encouraging class discussions online. Instructors who establish clear expectations as to how threaded discussions are used or who ask specific questions in response to student postings will encourage richer online dialogue. If you incorporate a plan for regular communication with your classmates into your overall course schedule, you will have greater success in your online course.
3. Use it or lose it
One challenge some students face when learning online is retention of the course content. Finding a way to apply the course concepts helps to retain the information. One way to apply these concepts goes back to the use of the online threaded discussion. Concepts can be interpreted and restated in each student's own words in an active dialogue with others.
Successful online students might apply course concepts to a current or past experience, for example at work. Taking handwritten notes, as if in a traditional face-to-face course, from the online text might help in retaining essential points as well.
4. Make questions useful to your learning
Asking questions is integral to learning. By asking questions, you, your fellow students, and instructors will go deeper into the subject. Going deeper makes the subject matter more understandable and the discussion experience more engaging. The online course environment typically provides communication tools (such as threaded discussions, e-mail connectivity, and live chat) that you can use to ask in-depth questions. You also can take the time to craft questions that may go beyond what you would ask in an in-person course, probing the subject with greater specificity. Well thought out questions are valuable resources in your online learning experience.
5. Stay motivated
Without direct physical contact and interaction with other learners or an instructor, you may lose interest or motivation mid-way through a course or program.
Like other students, you might find motivation in setting personal goals such as getting a good grade or buying something for yourself once you have successfully completed the course. You may benefit from opportunities to work with other online students, using the encouragement and feedback you receive from that connection to stay motivated.
Each individual may find something different that works for him or her in staying motivated. With a greater amount of work done independently in online courses, as a new online student, you should consider developing personal techniques for staying engaged, specifically by creating a self-motivation plan.
6. Make connections with fellow students
Being part of a community of learners is helpful in courses that are taught in person, and the same holds true for online classes. The experience will be greatly enriched by creating relationships and interacting with fellow students. Successful online learners will get to know each other well, even though they may be hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
Using online threaded discussions in the course management system, you can extend classroom discussions with your classmates and instructor beyond the traditional boundaries of physical class time. You may get to know each other more from the writing style, expression of thoughts, and ideas than by physical attributes. Perhaps you, like many other online students, will develop meaningful connections with online classmates that may translate into career networking opportunities later.
Next: Read the "Managing Your Time" page.