The life of an online student can be especially rewarding and full of personal and professional successes – from acing an exam while working a full-time job to nailing a discussion post while caring for a newborn, and everything in between. There are so many opportunities and the online platform provides the necessary flexibility to manage all those endeavors and still succeed in obtaining your degree.
Unfortunately, the same flexibility that can help online students be successful, can also lead to disastrous results without attentiveness, time management, and confidence. Sometimes, flexibility leads us to decide that we can “kick the can down the road,” putting off that homework assignment or lecture until tomorrow. Because of this, two students with similar abilities, in the same course, at the same time can have totally different results.
Fortunately, there are a number of tips and tricks that one can utilize to improve their chances of success as an online student and increase their performance at the same time. The tricks are tried and true and are helpful whether you’re brand new to online learning or a seasoned veteran. As the WVJC Online Orientation Coordinator, I work with our new students in developing these habits so that they are ready to run, excel, and most importantly, succeed.
Number 5 – Manage Distractions
Imagine this: While driving, your phone begins to ding with a dozen text messages all being delivered at the same time; the music on your stereo accidentally gets turned up to max; your child begins to scream, cry, and kick the back of your seat; and the car right in front of you slams on their brakes. BAM! You would have avoided the accident, but unfortunately, you were too distracted to notice the car in front of you before it was too late.
The scenario above is not so different when it comes to doing online coursework. When listening to lectures, reviewing for exams, or doing assignments, you may be tempted by the thousand other things going on in your world. It is important to try to find a separate time and place away from distractions so that you can focus on the work in front of you. For some, that means waiting to work on your assignments until after your children go to sleep, for others that means doing your work at the local library or after work at your desk. Regardless of what approach you use, managing distractions is the first step in success as an online student.
Number 4 – Communication
Sometimes assignments are confusing. Sometimes you will get distracted. Sometimes you won’t be able to see the forest for the trees. You need to know that that is okay and that it happens to all of us at one time or another. There are so many times that I’ve been preparing for a lecture and gotten lost in my own thoughts. This doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It also doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with the assignment or lecture you’re reviewing. Sometimes the way information is communicated and the way we comprehend just happen to be working on two different wavelengths.
The solution to this is simple, but often we do the wrong thing. So many times, I’ve seen students shut down or just decide to not turn in an assignment when confused. The solution? Communicate. Reach out to the instructor via phone, text, email, etc. Explain what you are struggling with. Word of advice: Ask specific questions. Good communication will always remedy the worst confusion.
Number 3 – Time Management
I feel like I preach this to my students constantly to the point that saying “time management” probably makes their ears want to bleed. However, it is incredibly important to manage your time effectively when you are working as an online student.
You need to develop a schedule that works for you. Plan for assignments and lectures as they’re due and work on them throughout the week. Schedule in your work as well as things like laundry and dinner. One thing that works incredibly well is to schedule in a reward time as well as leisure time. Plan to take some time out of your week to relax and enjoy yourself. I have a couple of students who bank that time until the weekend. They complete all of their assignments Monday through Friday while working a weekly job, then on the weekend, they plan adventures as a reward for finishing their assignments on time. If they are unable to complete their assignments, no adventure that week, BUT, they still are able to finish them before they are due on Sunday because they have managed their time effectively.
Keep a planner. Use a Google or Outlook calendar. Do whatever works for you, but definitely begin planning early if you want to be successful both as a student and in life.
Number 2 – Confidence
This one may seem short compared to the others, but confidence is key. As an online student, it is really easy to become intimidated by your instructors or even your classmates because you aren’t face-to-face with them each day. It is important to remember that all of us are people and that your fellow students are here to learn and grow just like you and your instructors are here because they are passionate about teaching and have a burning desire to help you achieve your dreams.
One of the most disheartening things I see is a student who is afraid to speak up. Engage with your classmates and your instructor on discussion posts. Contact your instructor and ask them questions about the subject matter. (Even if it’s not something in the assignments, we love this stuff and we will always be happy to engage).
Believe in yourself and your abilities. You are enough. You are able. You can succeed. Show everyone else what you already know – that you are strong and your dreams are within your reach.
Number 1 – Understand “You”
I always smile when making this kind of list because it’s so easy for someone to sit here and tell you how to do something when they aren’t in your shoes. Though I have seen these tips and tricks work for students of all ages, it doesn’t mean that everything works exactly the same way for everyone. When speaking about education, everyone has their own learning style and you should never put yourself in a box. For example, if you are a “white board” person –meaning you like to make a large list on a white board and cross it off as you complete it –then, by all means, continue to do that in place of using a planner. Do what works for you. Each of these tips is broad so that you can determine what approach to it will help you find the most success.
If you are struggling to find a solution or you feel like you need more advice (or just someone to spitball study habits ideas off of) please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to help a student looking to improve themselves and have been in your shoes, so please utilize me as a resource.