In 2021, online learning is everywhere, from elementary school, to high school, to bachelor’s programs, and graduate degrees. That might be little comfort, however, if you are diving into the online classroom for the first time.
Whether you are changing careers, pursuing a masters degree, or returning to college as an adult learner, Ottawa University knows that earning an online degree is a big decision. If you are like many adults who have jobs and families, online degrees are attractive for a number of reasons: the flexible schedule; the ability to take classes from home; the cost savings; and the opportunity to take courses at your own pace.
What may be less attractive is a learning environment that you are unfamiliar with. Ottawa University gets you. Read further to explore some of the common challenges in online learning and how to overcome them so that you can enroll in that first course with confidence.
Several of the online learning skills you’ll need center around technology. Sometimes the very word sends some people running. Don’t despair, we have the basics to help you succeed in the online classroom.
First, having reliable internet service and strong Wi-Fi is critical because it is your lifeline to the online classroom. If your service is unreliable and slow, or if you aren’t sure what connection speed you currently have, contact your provider to inquire and see about boosting it. Another tip is to ensure that other devices aren’t connected to the internet when you’re doing coursework. You can even take advantage of free Wi-Fi from a local coffee shop if need be.
Another recommendation is to make sure you have a dependable computer. A good rule of thumb is to use one that is not more than five years old. Older computers can crash, causing you to lose all of your files and keep you from completing assignments. They may also make it harder to load the latest software and operating systems. Earning your degree online is worth making sure you have access to a reliable computer, so you have the best experience possible.
Many of our students are nervous about their computer skills. Fortunately, knowing your way around your computer is not as tough as it may seem. You will be surprised by how quickly you learn once your classes start. However, if you are particularly concerned about it, there are countless tutorial videos that walk you through nearly every aspect of programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Don’t be afraid to play around with the programs in advance.
Ottawa University allows you to sample a class as a guest and experience an online course first-hand. As a student, you will use the platform to submit assignments, interact with classmates via discussion boards, contact your professor, and access resources for the course. You can try all aspects of the virtual classroom without the pressure of being graded. Instructors and support staff are available via email to answer your questions. As an effective way to boost your online learning skills, you can even sample an online class now! The username is ouguest and the password is welcome.
We know that flexibility is a big draw of earning your online degree. There is no doubt about it that working adults have busy schedules. That’s why we want to make sure you can successfully manage your time. Take a look at what commonly trips our students up and how to stay on track.
Whether you have a family, volunteer in the community, or work long hours, you can quickly get overwhelmed trying to squeeze in time for class without burning the midnight oil and burning out. Manage expectations on this one. Ask your friends and family for assistance, cut back on volunteer activities, and let your boss know you are taking online classes. Most importantly, let your instructors and advisors know when you need their support. We are here to help you!
Identify what sucks you in or keeps you from focusing. Is it TV? Social media? Sports? Noise levels? Create a designated space that you can retreat to for doing coursework. Put your phone in a place that you can’t easily access. Let others in the house know it’s quiet time. Turn on music or put on noise-cancelling headphone if that helps but minimize the distractions that make you unproductive.
We all put things off, especially when we are tired or anxious. Don’t let that derail your educational success. Create a schedule that allows you to see everything you have going on. Map out on the calendar specific study times. Set an alarm if you have to, but get into a routine so that school time becomes just as important as the other activities in your life.
Plain and simple, it can be hard to keep going when you are earning an online degree. Our tips for overcoming lack of motivation are essential in keeping you on track.
It can be easy to lose motivation if you fall behind in your coursework early on. Start off on the right foot by becoming familiar with the course requirements, assignments, and deadlines as soon as your class begins. Create a calendar of due dates and set up reminders. Check for emails and announcements about the class each week to ensure you have all the information you need to meet course expectations. These are just a few of our suggestions for online learning success.
If you start to get a little overwhelmed or you’re struggling to stay engaged, you may stop putting your best foot forward. Doing the bare minimum on assignments, discussion boards, and essays negatively affects both your grade and your morale. Be proactive about staying motivated. Find one or two other students that you connect with to keep you encouraged and accountable. Breaking up assignments into smaller chunks and taking short breaks can help with the drudgery. You can also create a reward system for yourself to get to the finish line of major assignments or courses to provide an incentive.
Taking one step at a time is important, true. However, you also need to keep your eye on the prize. If you lose sight of why you went back to school in the first place, then it’s going to be harder to stick with it. Do things to remind yourself why earning your degree is important. If money is the motivator, make a list of what you’ll be able to do once you get that larger salary. If it’s your dream job, take a tour of a company you’d love to work for or interview someone in that position. If it’s your family, bring them into your study world to see what you’re doing and remember how proud you’ll make them when you reach your goal.
Another concern with online learning is feeling that you are all alone. Especially since there is no in-person interaction with your classmates and professors. Overcoming this challenge is a hidden online learning skill that will help you finish strong.
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. We have resources and staff that are here to help you. You can reach out to your academic advisor, our tutoring services, or your instructor for help. Ottawa University’s accelerated online degrees and convenient locations in Kansas City, Milwaukee and Phoenix are all designed to support you every step of your educational journey.
Utilize our IT support to answer all your technical questions. Our OU Help desk can assist you with computer questions/problems, password retrieval, and questions about Blackboard. To make things easier for you, we offer several different methods to reach out for support.
- Engage with your classmates
Connecting with online classmates is a great way to handle feelings of isolation when you are taking classes. You could try finding them on social media or even meeting for coffee if they live in your area. You may want to try reading each other’s papers for feedback or asking for help with an assignment.
We mentioned this before, but this one is huge. Let your family and friends know that you are earning your online degree and ask for their support. You will be surprised by the people you have in your life who care about your success. Think about your significant other, parents, aunts and uncles, coworkers, or neighbors. It’s okay to ask for help!
Above all else, remember that you are not alone in experiencing the challenges of online learning. They are common to almost everyone who goes back to school. Our enrollment advisors are here to help make sure you are set up for success.
Reach out to an enrollment advisor today!
Tips for Starting a New Job
Benefits of the Ottawa University Online Experience
What Makes a Successful Online Student