By Kristin Barile
Academic Advisor, APUS
If this is your first time taking online classes, you’re probably excited about completing your schoolwork from the comfort of your own home. . . and you should be! That is a great perk of completing courses online.
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Having the opportunity to set your own schedule and take your laptop to any room in the house to complete your coursework is great. But then, life intervenes.
Since you’re at home, your household responsibilities — as a partner, parent, renter/homeowner, full- or part-time worker — can often trump your schoolwork. Dinner needs to be made. The laundry just beeped and needs to be folded. You’re tired and your bed is calling your name.
Whatever the distraction is, it’s important to know how to combat these challenges before you begin your online courses. To that end, here are four tips to ensure your success.
#1: Get to Know Your Professors, Support Team and Your Online Classroom
In an online school atmosphere, you will have questions that will come up, and it’s very important that you know where to find the answers. Locate your professor’s email address in the course syllabus or in your online classroom on the very first day of class. Have it handy in case you cannot access the classroom at a later date.
Also, get to know your Academic Advisors. They are your advocates and are here to help you navigate the online educational experience, as well as discuss course progression or answer policy- and procedure-related questions.
Lastly, knowing your way around the online classroom is very important. If you have questions that cannot be answered by your professor, use the “Help” button in your classroom to reach out to our Classroom Support Team for further assistance.
#2: Minimize Distractions by Setting a Schedule and Closing the Door
While you have more flexibility regarding when you do your schoolwork for online courses, there are still due dates for assignments. Also, there may be timed quizzes/tests for which you’ll need to be prepared.
It is always beneficial to have a set routine in order to accomplish class-related tasks. Know exactly when you plan on completing your schoolwork before your courses begin; map out a plan on your calendar based on the projects and coursework. Then, let your family and friends know you will be busy with your academic studies so they can make alternate plans.
In addition, find a quiet place to work. The best way to avoid distractions is to not allow them to enter your quiet zone. You also may want to leave your cell phone outside the door, too.
#3: Plan Ahead for the Expected. . . and the Unexpected
Although we can plan ahead to avoid daily distractions, there are some events that will come up in your life that cannot be avoided. The best thing to do is to plan your schoolwork around these events.
For instance, if you typically travel a lot during the holidays, plan out some days to dedicate to your studies so you don’t lose momentum. Use technology to your advantage; grab your laptop and write papers during a long car ride. Take a look at your calendar, and develop a solid plan to ensure your education remains a top priority.
#4: Take the Time to Enjoy Yourself, Away from the Online Classroom
You’re taking the necessary steps to reach your academic goals, and we couldn’t be prouder of you! Take the time to celebrate your wins along the way by setting up a rewards system.
For example, when you complete a course, enjoy a dinner out. When you reach the mid-point in your academic program, celebrate with a spa day, a golfing day or whatever brings you a sense of joy. Take the time to enjoy the ride; it’ll make the educational process that much sweeter.
About the Author
Kristin Barile is currently in her second year as an Academic Advisor with the School of Health Sciences at American Public University System. She worked for over a decade in local government before deciding to pursue a career in the education field. Kristin received her Master of Education with a concentration in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis from George Mason University in 2016. She is currently fulfilling the requirements to obtain her professional teaching license for the Commonwealth of Virginia in May 2020.