Success Strategies as You Head Back to School Online
Social media channels are currently flooded with pictures of kids headed back to school. There is talk of new clothes, backpacks and that divine smell of a freshly opened box of crayons.
However, what about all of those thousands of students that are headed back to school, online? Growing in population, they are important too.
As online students settle in front of their computers and prepare for another year of self-directed late night homework sessions, solo projects, and several hours in front of the computer screen, it’s suggested that digital students create a plan for success.
If you are looking to join these digital students know that online school takes time, discipline, and a maximum dose of quiet.
This can be the vital component of planning when mapping out one’s schedule for the school year. Potentially, there is no commute to campus, however, there is still a large component of time that will need to be dedicated to online education goals. Once instructors provide the syllabus, break down the time you will need for assignments and important due dates. Draft calendar entries for can’t miss dates and lay out a daily schedule based on the time needed to complete any assignments.
Once your schedule is set, stick to it. Procrastination is not your friend, do your best to not fall behind. If you do, its best to bounce back with these suggestions immediately.
Self-management is key and there will be obstacles such as family or work commitments. Technical problems may frustrate you along the way. Put your dreams and goals down on paper and remind yourself of those important goals, often. Sticky notes on the fridge or the bathroom mirror will help remind you why you have set out on this educational path. Don’t forget to seek out help when you come up against a question or problem. Developing solid habits from the start may be the secret ingredient to your ultimate success.
Communication can be awkward since you are outside of the traditional classroom, where you can just raise your hand and speak to the instructor. It’s true that online education can create a feeling of isolation however, as technology continues to progress there are more options for communication. Become familiar with whatever tools the program provides. Is communication limited to e-mail? Does your class employ Skype or some version of chat software such as Google Chat or Slack? Most programs also utilize an online learning management system such as Blackboard or Canvas. Whatever the program is that is provided by your university, ensure you are logging in on a regular basis to keep up with all the information and to stay in touch with both professors and classmates.
While these suggestions may seem obvious. Dig a little deeper. Should you look to enhance the educational experience by making meaningful connections with your professor and fellow students? Again, with a non-traditional or online approach a student may miss out on some of the social on-campus experiences like joining clubs or attending sporting events.
Look for ways to challenge yourself to make those personal connections. Check to see if the instructor offers one-on-one sessions or an introductory discussion board where students and faculty can participate in getting to know you activities. If you reside in the same city where your school is located, potentially, other students in the same class may want to organize a regular group meeting where you can get together occasionally for study sessions or to discuss upcoming projects.
As for skills, when it comes to the computer are you able to upload and download needed documents and assignments? Will you feel comfortable navigating the course site, conducting online searches, and installing or updating software? If you are unsure about your skills and feel like you need to brush up on computer basics or how to convert a word document into a PDF, you can visit Learnfree.org for lessons.
Strong reading and writing skills will be needed and don’t forget to review any netiquette requirements. This may include items such as using full sentences, avoiding sarcasm and eliminating emoticons from your communication while online.
Creating a specific place for you to “go to” can be instrumental in boosting productivity. Changing your physical environment has the ability to shift you mentally into your “school zone”. It can be similar to going to the gym instead of working out at home, you become instantly more focused on the task at hand.
Pick a quiet, calm spot and hang up a DO NOT DISTURB sign. It doesn’t matter if that space is in the garage, the attic, a basement or in the laundry room. Once you have laid claim to said spot, ensure that your family understands this is school space, and when you are there, you are not to be disturbed. Don’t forget to turn off the digital distractions as well. Switch off the TV, uninstall computer games and silence the cell phone.
Also consider ergonomics and lighting. Avoiding eye strain is important and you will be spending a great deal of time with your computer so ensure that the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen are comfortable. Consider all the tools you may need to make this experience easier including speedy internet access, a webcam, speaker or headset, and any required textbooks.
About C. A. Newberry
C.A. Newberry is fascinated by and believes in the power of continued learning. When not at her computer, you can find her at the ballpark with her family.