Now that finals are over and done with and winter break is slowly coming to a close, the next thing on everybody’s mind is obviously mentally preparing themselves for going back to school and gearing up for next semester.
If you have registered for an online course for the first time but do not know what to expect, here are some general observations I have made. Hopefully, they will serve as a guide to help you get an idea of what you are getting yourself into.
Planning Your Schedule
One of the first things you should take into account is how your schedule is looking for the upcoming term. Are you a full-time student? Are you working part-time? How heavy is your net course load? How long is your daily commute? Distance and time are just some factors which could influence your decision. Needless to say, convenience is one of the main advantages that comes with distance education. Examining your prospective course schedule and budgeting your time accordingly are key.
The worst thing that could happen is for you to focus too much of your attention on your on-campus classes while neglecting your online course throughout the term. It is very easy to get into this bad habit and fall behind. Make sure to plan ahead as early as possible so as not to find yourself having to catch up and cram at the last minute. Be realistic. You are the one who is most familiar with your capabilities and time constraints, so map out a sensible schedule that works for you.
It being an online course, you best know a thing or two about navigating around the web. If you’re not the most tech-savvy student out there, consider familiarizing yourself with online tutorials (which are often available to you via your online learning management system) well before your classes start. If you find yourself having difficulty operating the system, address these issues as soon as possible, before they take a toll on your grade.
Work Ethics and Habits
Once you have determined how you will fit the course into your busy schedule, the next step is to figure out how you will approach everything. Like in many other courses, you are often provided with the syllabus or class schedule ahead of time. This gives you the opportunity to determine where you can squeeze in the hours in addition to the time you are planning to invest in your other courses, or other commitments.
The great thing about online courses is that you are in charge of the speed at which you learn the material and work on assignments, granted you do so in a timely and well thought out manner. The not-so-great thing is that, without the self-discipline needed to push yourself to put in the appropriate hours into the course, procrastination will ensue. The course material conveyed via online classes are, by and large, meant to be self-taught. Being self-driven and having the right mindset are conducive to allowing you to succeed in this kind of educational setting. Something else to be mindful of is how there is nobody there to monitor or check up on your progress as stringently as if you were to be in a regular class. It’s all up to you.
The way I see it:
- Save paper! (unless you’re required to purchase supplementary courseware)
- Work at your own pace; hone your time management skills
- No need to come up to campus! (for the most part)
- Learn to take advantage of online sources and databases
Be wary of:
- Deadlines! If you don’t manage your time effectively, they will creep up on you.
- Lack of self-discipline — get your priorities straight.
- No motivation — set reasonable goals throughout the term.
I recommend you:
- Stay on top of things – budget your time wisely, and split it equally between your online and offline classes.
- Prepare for the worst – anticipate technical difficulties, especially prior to submitting an assignment online.
- Form relationships – keep in touch and engage with other students in the class through forums or discussion boards; you can learn a lot from them.
- Maintain communication – stay connected with your tutor marker and/or instructor; don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Still on the fence about taking an online course? Ask some friends who have already taken one, touch base with your prof ahead of time, or discuss your options with an academic adviser. At the end of the day, you’re the one who knows your priorities, strengths and weaknesses. Whatever the case, I wish you the best of luck on your studies for your next semester!
Have you taken an online course before? How was your experience, and what did you learn from it?