“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Chinese proverb. As a professor at American Public University nothing gives me more satisfaction than knowing I have helped students take a step toward their academic goals. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing otherwise capable students stumble along the path. There may be a number of obstacles along the way. Some are inevitable. Most are avoidable. Based on my experience as a professor working with entry-level students and those who transfer into the online environment, taking the following steps will definitely enhance a student’s odds of success.
Week Zero (Before the term starts)
Plan your time wisely.
- Begin by planning to spend about 12-15 hours, per course, per week for eight week courses.
- Identify times available for study and schedule accordingly. Write it down!
- Share your goals and explain your commitment to your family, friends and colleagues.
Get off to a good start. The first week of a course is often one of the busiest and most important.
- Visit and review the classroom on day one, even if you cannot study that day.
- Use the course syllabus to create and post a written schedule where you will see it regularly.
- Read any announcements, messages, or other information provided by the professor.
- Familiarize yourself with the remainder of the classroom.
- If required, post your introduction and reply to others in the forum.
- Visit your classroom each day to check for messages and announcements from the professor.
- Learn your professor’s name and contact information. Say hi!
- Complete assignments according to the guidance and directions provided.
Surround yourself with success.
- Identify students who share the same degree program or career field. They make good study partners.
- Review comments made by the professor in your gradebook or on assignments from week one.
- Consider the requirements for any long-term projects and begin preparation for them.
- Spend time in the online library and other resources.
Step up your game.
- Now that you are familiar with the classroom, make a concerted effort to do your best.
- Plan for any mid-term assessments as they are one week away.
- Dedicate some time to end-of-term assessments.
Assess your progress and make any necessary adjustments.
- Contact the professor with any questions you might have based on the feedback provided.
- Review your participation and interaction in the forums. Note and respond to those who replied to your discussion. Respectfully consider responses to questions you might have asked others.
- Are you comprehending and retaining the course content?
- You are half way there! Consider all that you have accomplished.
- Review your academic plan or contact your academic advisor to register for next term’s courses.
- Take note of what study and time managements techniques are productive and what are not.
- Review your gradebook, not only for professor guidance, but to ensure that all properly submitted assignments have been received and recorded.
- Ensure that you are making sufficient progress on end-of-term projects, such as research papers or preparation for finals.
You are almost there.
- Do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed.
- Dedicate time to end-of-term assessments.
Cross the finish line.
- Submit any remaining assignments and review your gradebook.
- Trade contact information with colleagues you wish to maintain in your professional network.
- Send a thank you to the professor; you never know when you might study with him or her again.
- Save useful course resources from the classroom.
- Thank your friends and office colleagues for their support.
- Reward yourself for your efforts.
As a professor I find that those students who put in a legitimate effort and follow the guidance above are those that succeed.
Craig Gilman is currently an online, adjunct who teaches COLL100 and for the School of Education for American Public University System. A veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps, he is a former, certified public school, secondary social studies teacher with an MS Education and MA International Relations from Old Dominion University.