You spent a minimum of 12 years in a traditional classroom, so you probably have that learning style mastered. If you are about to transition to the online classroom, you may be thinking you’re already prepared – how different can it be, right? The answer is - pretty different. But not to worry. With a little planning, discipline and practice, you’ll soon be a savvy online learner, too.
So, what makes a successful online student? Let’s explore 15 tips for how to manage online classes and how to be a successful online college student in 2020 and beyond. If these seem a bit overwhelming, be patient with yourself. As you go through your first couple of classes, you will learn to adjust your online study habits to suit your learning style for earning that “A” every time.
- Choose the Right School
This might sound like an obvious tip, but not all online programs are worth your investment in time and money. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is the right university. Ottawa University is student driven, gives you the personal attention you need, has manageable class sizes, has professors who are professionals in their field, is accredited, has programs designed specifically for online delivery, and offers a host of resources to support you throughout your enrollment and beyond.
- Take a Test Drive
You’ll feel more comfortable enrolling in that first online class if you know what to expect. Ottawa University offers the opportunity to sample an online class first-hand as a guest. That allows you to become familiar with the class format, the learning platform, discussion posting, as well as course requirements and rigor. You can also take Ottawa University’s SmartMeasure Online Learning Readiness Indicator to identify your strengths and weaknesses with regard to online learning.
- Get Tech-Ready
Few things can derail your new online experience like a computer crashing an hour before a major assignment is due. Before you start exploring online learning programs, make sure you have a reliable computer; reliable internet with a speed fast enough to accommodate anyone else in the house who may be using it; software for writing paper and making presentations (did you know there’s even software to help with formatting and citing sources in your research papers?!); and the latest browser and software updates. Become familiar with all of these prior to starting your first online class.
- Take the Program (and Yourself) Seriously
Some come into an online program thinking it is much easier than the traditional classroom. That myth has been categorically debunked. Ottawa University is a highly accredited, nonprofit institution that holds our online programs with the utmost regard. You will learn just as much with a degree earned online than from a traditional face-to-face program. Going in with that mindset can set the tone for your whole online experience. Likewise, you may be doubtful about your abilities to earn a degree online, but your determination and positive attitude can be just as key to success as mental ability. So, don’t sell yourself short!
- Know Your Resources
Ottawa University has an array of resources to help you succeed in your online degree pursuit. Whether it’s an academic or financial advisor, research tools, tutoring services, study groups, or a caring faculty member, you don’t have to flounder in a sea of academic questions and concerns. Do your homework to find out what resources are available to you before you enroll – then use them!
- Make it Personal
We learn best when we can personally apply concepts to our real lives. So you can maximize your online learning opportunities by making it personal in two ways: 1) take what you learn in the classroom and apply and practice it immediately in your work place whenever possible; 2) use personal experiences from your workplace in class discussions, presentations, and other assignments as examples of concepts covered or to identify solutions and strategies for dealing with an issue.
Perhaps nothing ensures success in the online classroom like engagement. Embrace every opportunity throughout your coursework to interact with your fellow students, your professors, even your supervisors, and co-workers. Put the most in and get the most out. Not only will you become a successful online student, but you’ll also become a successful professional.
- Identify your Learning Style
Now for some study tips! You will be your own primary motivator in this learning adventure, so figuring out if you are more of a visual, auditory, or kinetic learner can make things easier. Does visualizing or drawing a picture of a concept help you? Do you need to read the book aloud or find courses that provide recordings of faculty lectures/presentations? Does relating a story or describing an example of an idea help you remember it? Do you need to walk around or bounce a ball while you read or brainstorm? When you answer these and other learning style questions, you can adjust your online study habits accordingly.
- Set Up a Designated Study Space
While sitting in front of the TV or hunching over in bed may work for some, most successful online students advise having a go-to spot for studying – a place where you know it’s time to get down to business. If you don’t have a separate office or bedroom, it may be the kitchen table. Set up that space with the tools and creature comforts that foster productivity. Do you concentrate better with music playing or in absolute silence? Do you prefer a well-lit space or a dark room? If you need to break it up by studying at the coffee shop or at the office over lunch, remember to make smart choices for best results there, too.
- Hang the “Do Not Disturb” Sign
You’re ready to study - you’re diffusing your favorite essential oil, and you’ve put in your earbuds. Now it’s time to put up your literal or figurative “Do Not Disturb” sign. When you are in the “school zone,” make sure others in the house know you are off-limits for whatever period of time you have designated for studying. Design a system for alerting you to an emergency or urgent need; otherwise, be clear that you are unavailable.
- Establish a “No Phone Zone”
This may seem redundant to the previous study tip, but the “Do Not Disturb” sign is meant for others. The “No Phone Zone” is meant for you. It’s easy to become your own distractor, and having your phone open to social media, phone calls, and texting can lead to an unproductive study session and spiral into backed up assignments and possible missed deadlines. You may need to adjust your online study habits to include removing your phone from your study area.
- Master the Calendar
It is always best to plan ahead to prevent falling behind in your coursework. As soon as the course content becomes available, mark your calendar with all your assignment due dates. Also, identify the best times in your weekly schedule for getting your schoolwork done, put them on the calendar, and even set reminders. If you don’t hold yourself accountable, who will?
- Master the Art of the Chunk
In addition to good course calendar management, it’s also important to master your individual study sessions. Designating chunks of time to accomplish bite-sized goals helps you get to the finish line of an assignment, then of a course, and ultimately of a degree. Again, learning what motivates you can be helpful. Maybe you like seeing a visual timeline with markers that you can move as you achieve each milestone. Maybe you like to reward yourself with a cup of tea in the middle of a session, or a special treat each week if you stay on track, or with a friends’ night out at the end of a course. The point is, break it down into chunks, then build it up bit by bit until that diploma is hanging on the wall and you have that new job.
- Break it Up
Whether it’s taking a 5-minute walk in the middle of a study session or breaking up the types or number of courses you’re taking, regularly assess your ability to stay on task, stay motivated, and give 100% in your degree pursuit. Being realistic about your stress level, your circumstances, and your timeline can be crucial to finishing what you started.
- Review and Back Up Your Work
Unforeseen things happen. One way to prevent that pit-in-your-stomach mistake -whether it’s forgetting to paste in that critical paragraph or losing an assignment you could have sworn you submitted – is to make sure you review every assignment thoroughly (even your discussion responses) prior to hitting “send.” Check for content, tone, grammar, and any required style. Also, organize all of your coursework on your computer and back it up regularly, not only for protection purposes, but also for referencing in the future.
Hopefully these study tips and suggestions for how to manage online classes will ease any fears you have about being a successful online college student. Contact us for further information about our online programs!