By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University
Online learning is an excellent way to earn a college education. Online education has given many working adults and those who have multiple responsibilities the opportunity to pursue their education.
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Among the advantages of online education is that it is typically asynchronous; students can log in and complete their coursework at any time. In addition, online learning eliminates the need to drive to a campus in a traditional college setting.
I completed my first online course while on active duty in the military. I found that being able to log in and complete assignments at any time while on duty made it possible for me to get a higher education.
As a result, I have completed my associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees online. While pursuing each of these degrees, I worked full time and completed my coursework amid deployments, a career transition from active duty to police work, and with a family at home.
Online Education Offers Both Advantages and Challenges
While online education has tremendous advantages, it can also present challenges, especially for students in their first year. This is supported by research. For example, College Atlas has found that 30% of college students drop out in their first year.
I have been an online educator for more than 10 years, and I have worked with many first-year college students. One of the most common reasons why online students drop out in their first year of college is their inability to manage multiple responsibilities simultaneously.
Online college students are typically working adults, and balancing their personal lives, school, and work can be a challenge. This is especially true during the first year before they can develop a routine. Some students become overwhelmed by the online learning platform.
Online College Students Need Well-Developed Computer Skills, Including Microsoft Word
However, there are steps that can help first-year online college students to succeed. Since technology and computer use are at the core of online learning, successful first-year online students should have well-developed computer skills, which include familiarity with Microsoft Word. For adults who have been out of school for a long time and wish to enroll in an online degree program, one strategy that can help reduce stress is to complete a basic computer course prior to enrolling in their first course.
Some online universities have programs that are easily navigable and take steps to help students get off to a good start in their online education. Academic advisors, instructors and university librarians are also available to provide advice to struggling students.
From my experience, first-year online college students are most successful when they prioritize their responsibilities before they enroll in their first course. This identification of responsibilities might include creating a time log to identify their best time to dedicate to coursework or gaining the support of family and friends by letting them know the weekly study times so the new student can study undisturbed.
Organization Is Key to Academic Success for Online College Students
Organization is also an important key to success for any online college student. When I was a new student, I wrote down each of my daily responsibilities, including my coursework. I prioritized tasks by their importance and allotted specific time to complete each one.
I also found that working aggressively on my coursework early in the week gave me enough time to complete it without being rushed at the end of the week. That strategy often allowed me to take time off on the weekends.
Earning a college education is a major accomplishment. By selecting the right online university, developing an effective time management and organization plan, and prioritizing all tasks, first-year online college students can reach their goal of succeeding in their pursuit of a collegiate education.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has over two decades of homeland security experience that has involved counter-drug and human trafficking operations. Dr. Sadulski is a faculty member with American Public University and frequently engages in public speaking events. Dr. Sadulski presented at the International Human Trafficking & Social Justice Conference at the University of Toledo on the topic of human trafficking in September 2019 and shared some of his research on human trafficking in Central America.
Dr. Sadulski also presented at the Southern Criminal Justice Association’s Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in September of 2019. He will be traveling to Central and South America to further his research in the coming months. In addition to domestic speaking engagements, Dr. Sadulski has spoken in Europe and Central America on topics associated with human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, and police responses to domestic terrorism. He has been a faculty member with American Public University since 2011.
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