One of the most appealing factors of pursuing an online degree is the ability to learn on your own time.
Online degree programs offer flexibility and accessibility. Students can select a program that fits their needs and learn from where ever they are located, which attracts prospective students in the civilian and military community. In addition, students have the ability to complete their degree at their own pace, depending on the institution. As long as students are connected to the internet, they can engage with their instructor and classmates as well as submit assignments or tasks. However, there are also unique challenges that online students face. For example, the amount of freedom could open up opportunity for procrastination, not to mention a lack of accountability because there is no face-to-face interaction.
Fortunately, it’s simple to keep on track with the right mindset and preparation. Wondering how you can set yourself up for online success? Follow these seven often overlooked tips to help you stay organized and on top of your online classes:
Block out study time
One of the most appealing factors of pursuing an online degree is the ability to learn on your own time. With that said, you must prioritize time out of your usual schedule for studying. It does sound like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised how many students get overwhelmed with assignments when they don’t calculate the right amount of study time.
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Luckily, there are certain programs tailored for working professionals including military members that consider your current situation. Despite the program pace you selected, it’s still easy for time to get away from you, especially when your family has to answer to the military first. You’re susceptible to unexpected call-ups, drills and countless other obstacles that might get in your way. Keep yourself in check with writing down deadlines and getting ahead of the reading, etc.
Keep a detailed online degree calendar
By writing out your deadlines, it keeps you on top of course work. It doesn’t matter if you keep your calendar online or on paper (or both!), taking the extra step to jot down important notes helps you pace out your schedule accordingly — and helps you avoid things getting lost in mix.
Create online degree study area
There is probably a designated area for military gear at your home, right? Just like the military gear in your home, you should create a special spot for your studies. Having a designated study area is important for productivity because it allows for you to step away from any outside distractions. Even if you don’t or can’t have a separate office, you can utilize your kitchen table or living room sofa as long as you are left to your own devices. In that case, keep your school material in a safe and convenient place, so you don’t lose any important documentation. Use your study time to knock out your assignments at your special study area and you’ll be surprised how much work you can accomplish with the right study spot and designated time.
Schedule library time
For the times you hit mental roadblocks at home, take your studies elsewhere. It’s a wonderful way to refresh and recharge your mind. The library is one option, but there are plenty of other places perfect for students —especially if there is free Wi-Fi. Check out a local coffee shop or there might be an outside the-box type place that would offer solace like green spaces or parks in your neighborhood.
Know your educational portal
It’s extremely important to understand the ins and outs of the educational portal your institution is using — it saves you valuable time. When you first logon and the next several times after, spend some extra time navigating through the platform to learn how you can correspond with your instructor and classmates, analyze your assignments, and much more. There are certain features that stay the same throughout your program. Then, in the first couple weeks of each class, be sure you familiarize yourself with turning in assignments, engaging in forum posts and appropriately answering classmates’ postings per your instructor’s direction, because each class may use different features from one another. Some portals have an app you can download to stay connected when you are away from a computer. This feature especially can be helpful for military members and family in transit to stay on top of assignments and responses.
Ask your instructor questions
The absence of in-person lectures can leave a lot of open interpretation on assignments and activities for online students. If you have any questions about how to complete your work, reach out to your instructor for clarification. Utilize that resource, so you don’t mishandle an assignment because of a lack of understanding that could have been an “A.” Also, use your current professor to help guide you for future courses, especially if they teach a class that is a part of your Major or Minor’s course load.
Arrange online degree virtual study groups
Typically, online students “get to know” each other in the first week, but oftentimes stay disconnected until it’s required to respond to assignments. Instead, reach out to classmates who share your degree program or perhaps are also affiliated with the military. If an exam is coming up, don’t be afraid to put out a call in the virtual student lounge if you have one. Engaging with your classmates outside the “classroom” helps with nurturing those connections in the future in addition to helping you understand the current assignment. Lastly, learning from other students is a great way to gain perspective, no matter where you are on your educational journey and can help you make informed decisions in your degree program.