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Back to School: Six Strategies of Successful Online Students

Aug 26, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 1 Comments

Heading back to school online this year?  You’re not alone.  Millions of students are preparing to log on to new classes in the fall.  Here are a few skills and strategies that will help you in the year to come. 

A routine

As an online student, you can study wherever and whenever you wish.  But if you get into a predictable routine, you’ll probably find it’s easier to concentrate and stay on task during your study time—and your family will have an easier time leaving you alone for study time if they know exactly when you will and won’t be available.  Set a routine, and after a while your mind will become accustomed to focusing on studying during that time.  Schedule it like you would any other important commitment, and do your best to keep other commitments from interfering with it.

Strong self-motivation skills


Online students have to be able to keep themselves motivated—even if they never come in contact with their teachers or the people in their classes.  It can be difficult to keep excited and energized, even when you’re struggling through a challenging class.  Successful online students do whatever they can to remind themselves why they have to keep going—whether that’s visiting a professional in the field they want to join, posting up a collage of pictures that remind them of their goal, or reading books and watching television shows that depict characters in their profession.

Organization

Online schools are typically less structured in terms of schedule and due dates than most traditional schools.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t need structure.  Most successful online students are organized when it comes to tracking assignment due dates, keeping track of papers and online forum discussions, bookmarking online resources, and more.  There are just as many things to keep track of with an online degree program as there are in a traditional school; but with an online school, you get less help.

The right technology

All you really need to attend most online schools is an online connection, a computer, and some rudimentary software—that’s generally true.  But technology can make your life much easier and more comfortable—or it can frustrate you and get in your way.  If you’re still working on a slow dial-up connection on a desktop that’s several years old, you may want to consider upgrading.  A faster connection and more memory will make it easier for you to participate in online discussions, download assignments and video presentations faster, and do a great deal more than you would be able to with a slow connection.  Also, a laptop will make it easier for you to take your classroom with you—and won’t keep you chained to your desk while you’re studying at home.

Cultivation of support

As an online student, you may never meet your classmates and teacher face to face.  For some, this won’t be a big deal.  But many people need the support they get from working alongside a group of like-minded people.  If you know you need moral support, go out of your way to cultivate it in your area.  Form a meet-up group for online students to meet once a week or once a month, grab a drink or a meal, and discuss their challenges and successes.  See if any of the students in your online classes live in your area.  Make sure your family and friends know about and support your goals—and if they don’t, look for that support elsewhere.  Successful online students often have at least a few in-person friends who share their goals and can help keep them on track.

Reading and writing skills

As an online student, you’ll be depending on these skills far more than you would even in a traditional school.  You’ll need to make sure your written grammar and spelling are decent—if not, you could give the wrong impression to your peers and your teacher, who will probably only have contact with you through your writing.  If your writing skills are not as good as they could be, look into some online writing classes to help you improve them. 

If you’re heading back to school to get your online degree, think about the skills and strategies that will help you succeed in the new school year.  It’s possible a few of these ideas will help you make this your best academic year ever.
 

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Comments:

@RedelJones Over a year ago

Pretty good list. The only thing I would have to say is missing is a financial backup plan. School can become quite costly and financial stress can lead to academic neglectÓľĀ(the snowball effect). - follow me @RedelJones on twitter

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