Okay, so you are new to online schools, huh? Whether this is your first time in college or you have braved the classrooms of the traditional brick and mortar school –there are still these looming concerns that you have for being successful in the online classroom. You may ask yourself things like does my professor really know who I am? How do I make my voice heard? How do I juggle my career, family life and school? These are all very common and very legitimate concerns that you and your peers consider when taking classes in the online schooling environment. Fortunately, this is your lucky day. I am here to offer some tips for success in studying and succeeding in an online learning environment.
Alright, I know what you are thinking, “How do YOU know what would be successful for ME in an online environment?” That is a great question to ask. While everyone learns a little differently, I know some common things that work because I, like many of you am taking classes in an online school. I earned my Bachelor’s degree from a traditional brick and mortar school and decided to pursue my master’s in the online environment. I did not know what I was getting myself into, but have started developing these very successful habits and tips that have gotten me through my first few classes.
Tip #1: Get to know your professor–like REALLY get to know them. Send a hello email in the first week of class, let them know of any initial concerns you may have after reading the syllabus and start that communication connection with them. Doing this not only makes YOU aware of YOUR concerns for the class and gives you some clarity of professor expectations, but it also gives the professor a “name with the face” if you will. Reaching out to the professor shows your interest in the class and that you are taking it seriously. This could help you down the road if you run into a snag where you miss an assignment or have a scheduling conflict with something that is due. Because you have already reached out to the professor you have bridged that communication gap.
Tip #2: Dissect your syllabus! What do I mean by this? Sit down with your calendar/personal planner/whatever rules your life and each class syllabus. Look at the weekly and monthly due dates of major projects, discussion board posts, quizzes, etc., and then compare that timeline to the major events going on in your life. This lets you know right off the bat when you may potentially incur a scheduling conflict (Research paper and big work presentation in the same week? No biggie! You knew weeks ahead to prep for it). Make sure you write down the projects in your calendar at the beginning of the class so that you know 2 or 3 weeks in advanced what is coming. Trust me–this works WONDERS!
Tip #3: After you have made the schedule, stick to it! It is very easy to push assignments off or procrastinate (Come on–be honest, how many times have you said, “I’ll do it later”?) but in the online environment, things move so quickly that once you get behind, it can be a struggle to catch back up. One week in an 8 week class is like 2 weeks’ worth of work in a traditional brick and mortar class. Plan out your weekly readings on specific weeknights, pick a day to complete the discussion board and posts and follow up over the weekend with any papers to write or quizzes you need to take. Generally you have all week to get through the material so take it in small pieces throughout the week. You will learn more and not feel rushed when you are completing the final parts of the assignments over the weekend. Make a goal to have everything done before or by Saturday so you can use Sunday to recoup before the next week’s work.
Tip #4: Recognize that we (instructors, staff and advisors) know things come up! Many professors are trying to juggle the same types of schedules as you and can sympathize with life issues, just let them know. Keeping that open line of communication with your professor is essential. We realize many of you are adult learners and have other priorities and obligations. Many of you work in fields that require long hours or unplanned meetings. Let your professor know as soon as possible if you experience these problems so that you (and your professor) go into the situation knowing how to fix it rather than trying to back-track the problem after the fact.
Starting with these tips and really sticking to them is a sure way to make your experience in each class a positive one. You will not only proudly complete the classes a little more stress free but you may also learn more than you thought you could in an 8 or 16 week time frame!
By Suzie Radcliffe
Academic Success Advisor at American Public University