Learning Online – Seven Strategies For Success


Online college classes are convenient, allowing students to work around their work and home schedules. But unless you realize how different online is than “on ground” and plan for the extra time required, you may be spending a lot of money for low grades, high frustration and diminished tuition reimbursement.

These seven strategies allow you to take charge of your learning and get that piece of paper to unlock the doors to your new way of life. It’s worth the extra effort to learn how to leverage your time for the best results.

1. Read the syllabus as soon as the instructor posts it.

Online work is not easier than traditional classes. In fact, it takes more time, but with a good plan, you can control when, where and how you make it to class. Create a calendar of activities, assignments, tests, due dates and participation requirements. Preview your reading assignments, breaking them up into Most schools have access to library databases for research. manageable chunks instead of trying to swallow a few chapters whole. When you know what papers you must write, you can set deadlines for yourself to do the research and write the draft well in advance of the final deadline. library discovery service Give yourself time to review and revise. You may be able to crank out an “A” paper on the night it is due, but that’s not the way to bet.

2. Remember that there are no back row seats online.

You can’t sit just listen in and soak up the information online because the instructor will not be lecturing. Be present by answering questions and adding to the discussion. Some colleges and instructors require a minimum number of discussion forum posts each week in addition to answering the questions posted. Make sure you know how many posts are expected and how detailed they should be.

Use your word processor to write responses to discussion questions, and then paste your answer into the message box, so that you can take advantage of spell and grammar checking, especially if your online class software does not do a good job of spell-check. Class posts are not as formal as research papers, but you will be judged on your command of the language even in a conversational, informal message. Be sure that your message gets across clearly without errors.

3. Plan to spend at least half an hour online every day.

Even if you are not required to post a daily message, you will get more for your tuition dollar by showing up. Adult students bring a wealth of information and experience to class. You can learn as much from the insights of your classmates as from the instructor, and you can share your experience as well. If you are used to logging in every day, you won’t have as many messages to read at one time, and you will be able to follow the threads of conversation and add to them in a meaningful way.

4. Ask for help and clarification.

If you have a problem or are confused about an assignment, email your instructor, or better yet, post a question in the classroom forum. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. If you are confused, it is likely that others are confused as well. Instructors are trained to facilitate your learning, not to check up with you at every point. If you don’t ask first, you may take a hit on your grade.

5. Make back-up plans for various kinds of emergencies.

Be sure that you can login to your class or let your instructor know if there is a disaster. Hard Drives crash. Main boards short out. Make backups of your work on a jump drive or two. Your internet connection may go out. Have some other place where you can get online, such as the public library, internet café or other public place. Plan ahead for vacations, family visits and other events that will take you away from class by using a mobile computer or by scheduling off time between classes. Many armed forces students manage to stay online even when deployed. Many professionals manage even with frequent business travel. Don’t even think about taking an online class if you don’t have a computer and reliable internet access at home.

If you know you will be offline for a couple of days, let your instructor and classmates know that you have not disappeared, especially if you have a learning team assignment. Get your assignments done and posted as soon as you can. Make sure you have contact numbers for your instructor or classmates in case of hurricanes, floods, ice storms, or other natural disasters. Find out what the college’s policies are for students who are unable to connect due to natural disasters.

6. Find out if there is a writing center resource available to you.

Get all the help you can in editing your papers. While an electronic scan of a paper is not the same as a having a live person go over it, it does help. Writers need a second reader, even if that reader is a middle school child, spouse or coworker. Another person can tell you what you wrote, rather than what you intended to write. Always read your papers aloud before you submit them.

7. Access the online resources available through your school.

Most schools have access to online library databases for research. Learn to use them so that you have more reliable sources than random web sites on the Internet. Also be sure that you know which of the various methods of documentation is required, and where you can get help with proper formatting. Keep your documentation style book open while you are editing. Don’t try to remember how to do APA or MLA. Look it up every time.

Most online college students are not fresh out of high school. Don’t be afraid that you don’t remember what you learned 5, 10 or 20 years ago. Even if your writing or math skills are rusty, you will find that your real life experience will make up for what you have forgotten. People in their 30s, 40s and 50s are usually excellent students because they have learned how to manage their time, and they are focused on getting the degree, despite having full time jobs, children and general life issues. Hang in there. You can make it.

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