What is Different About Online Schools?
Online courses and online degree programs are great ways to learn new information, earn degrees, and further your education and your career at your own pace – without the hassle and expense of having to relocate your life for years at a time. Taking online courses isn’t any harder than taking courses on a physical campus, but it is different. There are a few different things you need to be prepared for. We’re going to give you a few simple tips for making the most out of your distance learning experience.
Take Your Online Classes Seriously
You might be surprised at how many people still think that online courses are all simple and don’t require any effort. Maybe that was the case a few years ago, but today’s accredited online courses are just as challenging as any other college course. That isn’t to say you should be intimidated: not at all! But go into the course with the understanding that it’s not going to be a cakewalk.
Know The Online Tools You’ll Use
Take the time to familiarize yourself with all of the software, websites, and other tools being used for the course – before the first lecture, if possible. Websites like Blackboard, Moodle, and other learning management systems are typically very user-friendly and easy to use, but they can still be a bit confusing if you’ve never used them before. After you’ve reviewed the syllabus and planned the semester, give yourself a half hour just to play around with the websites, find where you submit work, how to access discussion forums and lectures, and how to contact classmates and professors.
Participate as Much as Possible in Online Discussions
One of the big complaints historically levied against distance learning was that it didn’t offer the sort of interpersonal contact that regular courses did. However, more and more, online programs are addressing this issue with discussion forums, video-conferencing, and other methods. These may be “optional” in your course, but consider them mandatory! You’ll often learn a lot more from interacting with your classmates and your professor than you will from the reading. And if you’re having trouble understanding subjects or readings, don’t hesitate to contact the professor or teaching assistants – you’re paying for their expertise, so use it!
Pick Where You Work
One of the best things about online learning is the flexibility. As long as you’ve got an internet connection and a laptop computer, you can watch lectures, participate in discussions, and work on assignments just about anywhere… but that doesn’t mean you should. Trying to listen to a professor’s lecture above the din of a crowded coffee shop or on a jostling commuter train can be more hassle than helpful. Find out where you work best, and stick to those places.
Stay on Schedule
Again, the flexibility of online classes is a strength, and if you have to catch up on lectures or make up a reading later in the week, it’s no big deal – but don’t make it a habit to let yourself fall behind. Online courses are scheduled to maximize what you get out of the course, just like any other class would be. The closer you stick to the schedule the better off you’ll be. Putting readings and assignments and lectures off to the last minute will just create unnecessary headaches.
As long as you put in the effort, keep up with assignments, and treat your online courses like you would any other, you’ll find that distance learning is a convenient and rewarding way to get an education.