A quarter of college students are both full-time workers and full-time students, according to a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
To help busy students to fit education into their lives, many universities offer online course options or online degree programs. A third of all undergraduate students are currently taking at least one course online, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Being able to learn at your own pace is a huge perk for online students. Course materials are typically made available through an online portal, allowing you to work on assignments whenever is convenient for you throughout the week. You can also communicate with your instructors through the portal, making it easier for you to get the personalized help you need to succeed.
While online courses offer many benefits, it is a very different learning experience from a traditional classroom environment. Time management, organization and good study habits are even more crucial to your success as an online student.
Here are five tips for mastering your online classes:
1.) Have a plan
Create a weekly study plan right from the get-go. The first step is to determine when you will set aside time to focus on your schoolwork. It could be in between appointments, after work or over the weekend – whatever works best for you. Proactively block off your calendar during this time so you can hold yourself accountable to finishing your work. Another helpful organizational tip is to review the course syllabus and write down all important due dates in a planner or calendar. This way, you can keep track of – and plan ahead for – major deadlines throughout the semester.
2.) Stick to a schedule
As an online student, you have much more flexibility in setting your own schedule. This can be to your advantage, but it can also present a challenge if you don’t have strong time management skills. It might take some time to establish a routine that suits your lifestyle and allows you to get your assignments done well and on time. Once you have nailed down the right schedule, you can use a planner or digital calendar app to keep yourself on track.
3.) Connect with your classmates
Being an online student doesn’t mean you have do everything alone. While you might not get to meet your classmates face-to-face, there are many ways you can connect online and build your own college community. In fact, many online courses require students to engage with each other on class discussion boards in order to facilitate the same kind of thoughtful exchange you’d have in a regular classroom. You could also take the initiative to start a social media group for your class where you can share notes, ask questions and collaborate on assignments.
4.) Set goals for yourself
Setting goals can help you stay motivated throughout the semester. To be successful with goal-setting, it’s important to have a mix of both short-term and long-term goals. For example, a short-term goal could be improving your test score on your next exam. A long-term goal could be improving your writing skills by the end of the semester. This might involve more work and dedication, like setting a standing appointment with a tutor and working ahead on writing assignments.
Once you’ve identified your goals, write them down and track your progress. When you complete one of your goals, be sure to reward yourself! This could be something small like giving yourself an extra study break, going out for dinner, or spending time on another activity that allows you to unwind and relax.
5.) Make the class a priority
Some students assume online classes are easier than regular classes. This is not true. As an online student, you need to make your education a priority and hold yourself accountable to meeting your deadlines. Minimizing distractions like television and social media is a great way to stay focused during your designated study time.
Online classes are a great option for busy students who cannot easily attend an in-person class. With the right amount of planning and prioritizing, it is possible to be successful without having to step in the classroom.