Keys to Online Learning: Tips for Students

Distance education programs make learning available at a student's convenience, and numerous colleges and universities offer online certificate and degree programs in a variety of fields.

For students considering online education programs, factors such as course format, scheduling, technology requirements, and course materials should all be kept in mind. Although all courses may not be available in a purely online format, students can apply these factors to a course that has any type of online component, as the same principles apply.

Keys to Online Learning Overview

Online programs sometimes feature on-campus components, so students should verify if a program is completely online. They should also be skilled with time management, test out a course, and familiarize themselves with the required technology and other tools needed to be prepared.

Choose a Program

Online learning programs appeal to many different types of students, such as employed individuals who balance work with education. When looking at online programs, students may wish to consider whether they want a format that's completely online or if they can commit to a partially on-campus, or hybrid, program. In the hybrid formats, scheduling for the on-campus portion of classes may be on weekends or evenings to accommodate working students. It is important to note that courses in both hybrid and completely online formats, you will be required to have up-to-date, compatible computer software and internet browser in order to view the materials and submit your work.

Manage Your Time

Many online programs are self-paced and allow individuals to follow courses at their own speed, but they're structured in a way that students must meet assignment deadlines. This requires students to be self-disciplined and motivated, because they're responsible for pacing themselves and keeping up with assignments.

Take a Starter Course

Students who are new to online learning may want to enroll in an elective course prior to taking on a full-course load. This approach introduces the concept of online learning to students without overloading them, and they can gauge whether or not it's a feasible option.

Know Technology Basics

Since online learning requires the navigation of computers and the Internet, students often need to have a basic familiarity with both of these components prior to program enrollment. Online orientations show newcomers the basics and are part of some distance learning programs. Online tutorials teach students such tips as how to:

  • Use course management systems
  • Manage files
  • Conduct research
  • Calculate study time

Be Prepared

Many schools use online course management sites, such as Blackboard, to make online learning accessible to students. Interaction between instructors and students occurs via:

  • E-mail
  • Discussion forums
  • Web videos
  • Online chat rooms

The programs still use course materials, such as textbooks or software. Some online courses require exams to be proctored by an approved instructor or testing facility; in this situation, students often need to find a proctor in their area to administer their exams.

Online learning requires students to have a high level of discipline and preparation in order to succeed in these courses. Prospective students should keep these responsibilities in mind, as well as the technological requirements, program formatting, and overall expectations of the coursework, when considering taking a course in an online format.

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