By Glynn Cosker
Online Learning Tips, Guest Contributor
I have been in the workforce for over 20 years and I pride myself on being a lifelong learner both on the job and in the classroom. Recently, I’ve continued along that path by introducing online learning into my busy life. I have a full time job and a family of five with a long list of extra-curricular activities, but in a relatively short period of time I’ve discovered that online education is effective and rewarding. It can be a life changing experience; it was for me. Here are a few things you should know before diving in.
1. Be prepared and know what’s coming
Success depends upon you being ready to add a new time commitment to your schedule. Prepare in advance for what the world might throw at you. Know that if you sign up for a two-year degree, you must persevere — even after your boss tells you about a new project that will require you to work a 50-hour work week for a year.
2. Check the system requirements
If you own an old laptop and endure an unreliable internet connection, you may wish to consider some changes. A majority of courses require you to access various online tools, software platforms, and systems which might not work on your computer. You don’t want to wait forever for a file to upload or stare at an online webinar which is constantly buffering. So take a tour of the online student environment first and make sure your system’s software and connection speed is up to snuff.
3. Manage your time…especially time alone
It’s essential that you establish a routine which incorporates study time while never compromising all the other important people and commitments already rooted in your life. Communicate up front to your family and friends; tell them when to expect you to disappear for your “alone time.” For example, I tell my family, “My headphones are on — do not disturb.” The headphones cover up a somewhat noisy household. I use a white noise app on my iPod — the crashing of ocean waves have led me to some polished assignments.
4. Communicate with peers and faculty
Get to know your peers online. The forums and chat rooms allow you to craft provocative responses to questions and to build relationships with others around the world. Their perspectives and uniqueness can shed light on topics and careers that may interest you. For example, I shared an intelligence studies class with ten students who were either veterans or active military personnel. Their real-world insights complemented the curriculum and enriched my overall experience.
5. Have fun
My high school theater teacher always stated before we went out onto stage, “It’s a play — play with it!” So don’t ever make your online education a chore! If it becomes a chore, it needs to be one of those rewarding chores like that satisfying day in the yard when you look back and see the newly planted flowers and the pile of extracted weeds. Share what you are learning with your friends and family, or weave what you’ve discovered in class into your daily job if it’s appropriate. And when it all comes together, give yourself a pat on the back.
Ultimately, everyone has a different approach to seeking success in online learning. My story involved sacrificing an occasional night out in order to get my English 101 final paper to my professor. Your story will be based on what you have going on every day. Keep motivated, stay involved, don’t miss deadlines, and enjoy. If you succeed, you will reap the rewards even if it means putting a sign on the door that reads, “Keep Out! Learning in Progress.”
About the Author:
Glynn Cosker is currently a contracter and content author with APUS. Born and raised in the UK, he spent 11 years working at the British Embassy in Washington DC. He is a political writer with a decade of content writing and creative writing experience.