Whenever people find out I take my classes online (and work from home, too) they usually ask something like, "Do you have to be really disciplined?" That's a legitimate question. Going to a traditional school in person can seem easier because you have to be somewhere at a specific time or else you might not pass. There's some accountability there that seems to be missing in online classes.
If you've ever pursued a degree over the internet, you know that not showing up for class discussions has exactly the same consequences as at traditional schools. Fail to log in or submit a paper or comment on enough students' discussion posts and you will have just wasted a lot of money and damaged your GPA. It takes a different sort of discipline to do well in online classes.
Here are six ways to stay on top of your game.
1) Become One with your master calendar
To be a successful online student you need a master calendar that knows your schedule better than you do. Choose a format that works for you with hourly slots for you to get super detailed, or a big desk calendar that you can scribble on. Fail to update your calendar and you can kiss your balanced life goodbye. Put everything on there! Hair appointments! Assignments! Vacations, study sessions, coffee dates, everything! Commit to nothing without first checking with your master calendar.
2) Plug the syllabus into your calendar
As soon as the syllabus is available, go through the dates of assignments and plug them into your master calendar. Of course you'll need to mark the big assignments. Most classes have mini-deadlines within the school week. If you need to post to the discussion board before the third day of class each week, put that on the calendar, too.
3) Play to your strengths
To be your own boss, you have to recognize your strengths as a student and as a worker. What time of the day are you the most clear-headed. Schedule study time around your natural highs and lows. Choose to do easier work when you have a shorter attention span.
4) Connect with other online students
Working on an online degree can feel somewhat isolated. Stay motivated by connecting with your classmates, professors, advisors and anyone else who is pursuing an online degree. Speaking with them about assignments or just the general online college experience will keep you motivated. It may even inspire some competitiveness that will push you to study harder.
5) Don't work till the break of dawn
It can be tempting to tell yourself you're going to pull an all-nighter. But let's face it, you're not nineteen anymore. Not only do you need your sleep, but you don't have the time to crash for five hours after you take your test in the morning. You've got more responsibilities now then when you were in college. Don't push your studying off till it's late and say that you'll stay up all night doing it. Force yourself to complete things during normal working hours or before bedtime.
6) Remember, the last one is a rotten egg
Most classes are set up around discussion boards. Post your thoughts on the assigned reading and comment on what your classmates had to say. No big deal right? Sometime the simplicity of this task makes it a ripe target for procrastination. But wait to long to post and you'll miss the entire conversation. If you post after everyone else you have such a slim chance of anyone commenting on your ideas. If your post doesn't start a conversation then it's almost not worth it, because it's in those conversations that you really learn the material.
Excited for the semester to start. Hope I can practice what I preach!