The 411 on Online Courses and How to Crush it

Your graduation gown is pressed and put away.

Your bags are packed and your mom is weeping in the driveway. In other words, you’re headed off to college and with that comes a plethora of opportunities for personal growth, academic achievement, and soul-searching. Many of you will be taking advantage of the convenience of online classes, either as your entire schedule or for a few classes. So are you ready?

“Preparation is the key to success.”
– Alexander Graham Bell

online courses


In contrast to your academic career thus far, you will be 100% responsible for your education. This entails checking in for lectures, being aware of due dates, taking exams, and being consistent. If this sounds daunting you’re not alone. It’s not easy to go from teachers and loved ones helping you navigate through school, to being on your own with your education in your own hands, but with BestSelf’s help, you’ll be prepared to crush it.

 

The Transition

High School is out of the way (what a relief amirite?) and you’re finally on your way to studying what you want; the advantageous way of doing that is by taking classes online. The biggest thing to be aware of is the responsibility that’s been added to your shoulders. Unlike elementary school and through grade 12, your professors are not going to be there to make sure you’re getting your work done. Most of the time the attitude is, you’re paying for this education, either from loans, grants, scholarships, or by your own means, and you are therefore in charge of it. Professors get paid whether or not you show up or not, and as a result, they don’t always take attendance. Online classes are no different. When you enroll, you are confirming that you will take on this new amount of personal accountability. Obviously, there are some pros and cons to taking classes online. Such as, for the most part, you can work on your assignments when you have time, (advantageous to night owls and early risers) you also are not required to set foot in an actual classroom. This is convenient for those not having to travel to campus, however it makes it more difficult to commit yourself to working your courses each day because you are not technically required to go anywhere at a certain time. However, arm yourself with a bit of motivation, “know how,” and drive and you can succeed.

 

Knowledge is Power

So what’s the 411 you need to know for online success? The first thing is knowing where others have fallen short. We’ll call these the five deadly sins for online success or FDSOS.

Procrastination: Trying to complete an entire online course in the span of one night is just an impossibility. I don’t care how many Redbulls you’ve consumed.

Distraction: Nothing says, ‘hey quit what you’re working on and hang out with us’ like a room full of noisy if not well-intentioned roommates laying out plans on how to best prank the RA.

Over-Achievement: Enrolling in courses is easy and can actually be exciting but don’t overdo it. Consider taking only a couple classes to find out how you handle the workload.

Underestimating: Don’t fall for the old “online classes are a breeze” myth. In fact, as convenient as they may be, they can actually be considered harder because you’re on your own.

Sink or Swim: If you find that you need help, don’t feel like there’s no one to ask. Every online course has an advisor or teacher running it who is there to help. If the class you are taking is also physically available on campus, you can go directly to the professor and ask for help. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to introduce yourself to your teacher if possible, so you have a relationship established as you launch into your course.

It was no mistake that this acronym had the phrase SOS at the end of it because if you find yourself falling into these traps, there is always a way to get help and get back on your feet and here’s how you do it.

 

The Plan

Now that you know what not to do to succeed online, here is the breakdown for the road to not only successfully getting through your courses but to excel. And because this is BestSelf, you’ll also learn a few life lessons along the way.

Your “Classroom”: One of the most important things to do when taking an online course is knowing where to do it. If you remember, one of the sins is distractions. It is unbelievably easy to be distracted while you’re studying so arm yourself against it. The best thing to do is to decide where your workspace is going to be. Pick a place that will be free from distractions. A favorite place is a library or a study room. You can even use your own desk area as long as it’s quiet while you work. Likewise, geteducated confirms the value of having a study space will help you stay in school.

Schedule: According to US News, deciding on a schedule is a big advantage. Blocking out a time of day will help you stay accountable to your coursework and will teach you the value of planning ahead. Time management will be entirely up to you so use it wisely.

Stay Organized : Most of the time a syllabus will be provided along with due dates for all assignments and exams. Using tools like our wall calendar or a spreadsheet to keep track of when things are due will be a lifesaver. In fact, Karen Stevens, a chief advisor from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst said, “Students really, really need to be organized from the beginning to be successful in an online course.” She also notes the importance of scheduling assignments, having a clean and quiet workplace and keeping track of assignments.

Furthermore, developing organizational skills and good time management skills now will be a huge advantage when you enter the workforce.

Efficiency: Now that you’ve picked out the time and place you’re going to work on your courses, it’s time to use your time efficiently. It’s pretty easy to feel your eyes glaze over as you read the lecture notes, and you’ll have the urge to update your Facebook status to something like “bored, save me,” or Instagram the latest picture of your cat, but you’d be committing the deadly sin of procrastination. Taking a break occasionally can be helpful if your time block is a large one, but if you know you’re going to fall into the social media trap frequently, then it might be a good idea to turn your phone off and block the fun sites on your computer.

Another thing to be aware of is how you’re coping with your workload. Part of being efficient with your time is multitasking, but if you’ve signed up for one too many classes and can’t devote the same amount of hard work to all of them, then you might need to consider cutting back. For more tips on how to be more efficient, check out what we have to say here.  

When it’s all said and done, taking online courses can be tricky but not impossible. In fact, between the self-management skills you will be learning, and the personal responsibility you will be giving yourself, one could say that taking classes online will better prepare you to enter the workforce more than physical classroom attendance. Forbes concludes, “if it fits your learning style and you can muster up the discipline, the right online course can change your career and your life.” It is certainly a lofty endeavor, and not for the faint of heart, but with a little preparation, a lot of discipline, and a bit of your BestSelf, you can reach your goals and succeed.