If you’re thinking about going back to school but you already have a fairly busy schedule, finding out that some of the courses you need are offered online can be a big relief. Online learning can be a great alternative to having to go to campus and may allow you more flexibility. However, there can be some drawbacks as well. Being prepared for the unique challenges of online classes can help you overcome those drawbacks.
How to Pay
Before you can start taking classes, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to pay for college. You should find out what kind of financial aid your school may offer you and whether you are eligible for any scholarships. You can also take out a student loan from a private lender to secure the education you need. This can help cover your tuition and other expenses. With this worry out of the way, you can start to strategize for success in your online courses.
Understand the Course Structure
Before you even sign up for the course, be sure to understand how it is taught. Is it synchronous or asynchronous? Most online courses are the latter, meaning that you do not have to show up to do the work at a certain time. In a synchronous class, you might meet with your professor and other students at the same time several times a week online, perhaps using video conferencing. While asynchronous classes do allow you to do schoolwork when it is convenient for you, don’t confuse this with thinking you will be able to work entirely at your own pace. Asynchronous classes still generally have due dates throughout the semester, and you will need to keep up with them.
Being well-organized is a critical study technique, and is directly linked to your success in an online class. If you aren’t careful, it can be too easy to put things off and fall behind, leaving you to scramble to keep up and perhaps turning in sub-par work as you do so. The best way to approach your online course is to review the entire semester, note due dates for various items, and put them in a calendar. Then, you should block out time to work on the course each week. Be sure as well that you understand the details of how everything works, such as how you turn in assignments. Also note any other components, such as requirements to participate in a discussion forum.
Engage With Your Professor and Classmates
One of the potential drawbacks of online courses is that you can feel remote from your instructor and your other classmates, so you should try to stay engaged. Your instructor may have put some effort into working on ways that you can all interact more with one another. One way might be online group projects, which can be challenging. Having a baseline rapport with your classmates can help you survive a virtual group assignment. Participation is important in online courses just as it would be if you were in a traditional classroom. Try to be positive and supportive with your fellow classmates even if you think they are asking a pointless question or you disagree with their opinion. When you address them, imagine that you are sitting across the table from them.