Each year, studying online for a degree is becoming more popular. While traditional class-based modes of learning are still the norm, more students are turning towards the more flexible option of online learning. In turn, more and more schools are starting to run online programs, either alongside their regular on-site courses or as their sole method of teaching.
Despite the obvious advantages, some students may have concerns about studying online, especially if their previous educational life has taken place in physical buildings and using traditional face-to-face teaching methods. To help alleviate these concerns, here are four top tips for studying online for a degree.
As with any mode of study, it’s important that you prepare yourself for the hard work ahead. Some people embarking on an online degree course are under the misapprehension that it will somehow be easier than attending a class-based program. However, the coursework is unlikely to be any easier if it is to obtain the same level of qualification. Furthermore, online programs have other elements that could be more challenging, such as a greater onus on organising your own time and, often, the expectation that you can juggle it with a higher number of outside commitments. Any degree requires careful thought and planning. Knowing this in the beginning with will help you in the long run.
Prior to starting an online course, it also helps to familiarise yourself with the structure of the course. Although some internet-based courses are asynchronous, which means that you are free to choose when you complete the work, others are synchronous, meaning there are specific times that you are required to log in and participate. With this in mind, make sure you select a course that is right for you and that meets your needs.
Finally, ensure that you are prepared in terms of the technology that you’ll need to take part in and complete the course. Usually, your chosen college will stipulate the technical requirements, for example operating systems, internet speed, and anti-virus software. To avoid any unnecessary stress, make sure you have all this sorted before the course begins.
Treat the course in the same way as a traditional program
Throughout your previous studies, you will probably have noticed which study practices work for you and which don’t. Some people believe that they will need different practices and skills to complete an online course. This is generally untrue – your usual study practices will be applicable to this different mode of learning. The main difference between the two is that internet-based courses mean you’re likely to spend more time alone studying independently. For this reason, you’ll need to take more of a leading role in planning your schedule.
There are various ways to keep to up to date with coursework, deadlines and exams. An online calendar be a great way to plot all of your important dates in advance, and to set yourself appropriate reminders for as you go along. Daily checklists can also help, as well as weekly lists to make sure you’re on track at all times. There aren’t many things worse than not starting work for an assessment until the day before it’s due. Pacing yourself will mean less stress while you’re completing your course, which is likely to result in higher-quality work.
In other words, try to adhere to all the same practices and rules that you will have encountered on class-based courses. Remember, though, that you’ll need to be even more proactive and organised when you study in an online environment.
Explore your resources
A common worry among students new to online study is that they won’t have the same wealth of resources that they might have at a traditional institution with class-based lessons. However, this worry is usually unfounded. Schools such as Suffolk University offer a variety of online courses and have plenty of resources and help available so that you can gain your degree.
There will most likely be a well-stocked digital library, and points of contact should you need assistance finding anything. There is also usually a dedicated email address and phone number should you need help with any technical support. You can also access one-to-one tutorials, careers advice and pastoral support, all of which will be available via telephone or an online platform such as Skype.
As with everything else, it’s best to investigate these platforms and processes before your course begins. That way, you’ll feel prepared and knowledgeable about how to find anything you need as and when it comes up.
Establish a Routine
Online courses can make it easier for students to attend higher education, particularly for those who have already completed their bachelor’s degrees and are now juggling other time constraints and commitments such as families and employment. Many people select online courses because of their relative flexibility. While this is undoubtedly a great reason for choosing this mode of study, it’s still important to establish a routine. As suggested above, tracking your assignments and exams and planning an appropriate schedule is a vital part of a healthy studying routine. In addition to this, ensure that you find consistent times for your study and a suitable place in which to do it.
Routines can be imperative to success in an online course, and to feeling confident and comfortable when studying. Choosing a suitable place to study is one of the first tasks you should tackle. Different people have various needs regarding their learning. Some people like to have background noise such as the radio, or family members in the next room. Others require total silence and solitude when learning. Find and design your working space based on your study needs and preferences. Always study in the same place so that you train your brain to know it’s time to study each time you get there.
Similarly, decide on times in the week in which you can study productively. For example, maybe your children always go to nursery on weekday mornings, or your partner is out all day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Whatever works for you, instill a routine and stick to it wherever possible.