By Dr. Angela Gibson
Professor in the School of Arts and Humanities at American Public University
At the beginning of each new year, new season, or even new month it seems that television shows and magazines create lists to help you become the new you. One topic that doesn’t seem to make headlines is how to be a better student.
It doesn’t take a new year’s resolution to become a better online college student; it can happen any time. What is needed is commitment to the focus and dedication needed to become a better you academically.
Starting is often the hardest part. Finding just one or two things to do to improve is a great first step.
For those who take online classes a routine can be difficult to start or keep. Students who attend traditional classes get some built-in help because they have a set time and day they need to be in a physical classroom.
Review your schedule, locate time each day that you can dedicate specifically to being in your online classroom, and place it on your calendar. Ensure that a solid amount of in class and classwork time is blocked. There are days that you may need all the time and other days you may finish early and have time for other items on your to-do list.
Having a set routine every day may be excessive. When starting out as an online learner it is important to find your rhythm and what works for you. If you are not new to online college classes, then you may know that an every other day schedule may work. Consider some of the practices of famous entrepreneurs to create your own routine.
Pair routine with momentum. Once you begin your classes and dedicate yourself to a daily routine of working in the classroom, keep it going. It’s just as easy to lose momentum as it is to gain it.
The thoughts “I can do it later” or “it can wait until tomorrow” are harmful to your success. If you find yourself slipping utilize some of these ideas to keep and maintain success.
Another way to keep momentum and achieve learning goals is through partnering. Find someone under your roof who will help keep you honest, who can check in on you, inquire how you are doing and meeting your goals, encourage you when you might stumble, and congratulate you when you do well.
Partnering can also take the form of a study buddy. Find someone that may share the same program of study or have the same academic goals. Getting to know the individual is helpful though limit off- topic conversations to a minimum, even setting a time limit for discussions about family, work, or the big game. Facetime, Skype, and Google hangouts are great ways to connect with visuals as well as sound.
Creating a successful space for study is important. Whether you do your classwork on a stationary computer, laptop, or mobile device, the physical environment around you is critical to your learning.
Finding the right study space is very personal. Some students prefer music while others prefer silence. Some students sit near a window to rest their eyes; others face a wall to minimize distractions.
Your surroundings are important as well. Are there items in your work space that energize and motivate you such as a picture of the family, a funny saying, or a bobble head to agree with you? If you use these comfort items, ensure they do not cause distraction.
Seating and lighting are also essential. If we are too comfortable, such as lying on the bed or sitting on a bean bag chair, then we may find ourselves dozing off. If we are too uncomfortable that agitation will be distracting. Posture and mobility are also important. Consider your options for how to “Create a Good Environment for Studying at Home.”
Through creating a schedule for class time and course work and developing an environment for studying you set the stage for success. Once such a foundation is laid, following a routine generates momentum. Keeping the momentum moves you closer to your academic, personal, and professional goals. When you stumble, utilize tools and strategies and those around you to help you recover and get back on track.
The new you is really just you with the resources to find a better and less anxious way to make it in college. Here’s to your success!
About the Author
Dr. Angela Gibson is a professor for the School of Arts and Humanities at American Public University. She has previously worked at community colleges, private institutions of higher education, and state universities teaching face-to-face, blended, and fully online courses teaching first-year as well as master’s and doctoral students. Dr. Gibson serves as a facilitator and mentor for the Online Learning Consortium, publishes, and presents at national and international education conferences. She received a B.A. in International Relations from George Mason University, a Masters of Arts in Human Performance Systems, with a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design, from Marymount University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, with concentrations in adult education, higher education, and community college education, from Texas A & M University – Kingsville. Find her on Twitter at @AgilistaAG.