Taking classes for your degree online is convenient, allowing you to log in and attend class when you have time between your other commitments. While you might already know that a successful online learning experience requires you to be self-motivated and able to manage your time, there’s more to getting the most out of your online program than setting aside time to complete your assignments.
A rewarding online degree experience begins with choosing the right program. It also requires that you pay attention to everything from the technological requirements to your own personal learning style. In fact, to get the most from your degree, whether it be an online MBA or an online master of arts in teaching there are five things to keep in mind.
Choose a Program That Fits Your Learning Style
Everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners and need concepts spelled out via visual aids like charts, graphs and videos. Others learn best by applying the concepts to real-life situations. Some people learn best through a combination of methods. When it comes to online learning, there is no “one size fits all” solution that works for everyone. Every program has its own methods of instruction. As you compare programs, try to determine which teaching style is most prevalent. Will your courses be heavy on reading and discussion, and light on application? Are there in-person or real-time elements, such as video conferences or weekend workshops? Do the instructors make use of technology and use audio and video instruction in addition to reading? Seek out a program that best matches your preferred way of learning to ensure your success.
Pay Attention to the Technological Requirements
Every online program uses its own system for classroom management, which generally has minimum computer and connection standards. You might need additional programs or equipment for your classes. If your computer is too old and slow, or your internet connection is unreliable, you might find your online classes more frustrating than enlightening. Upgrade your equipment if necessary before starting school to keep up with the class.
Develop Your Writing Skills
We’ve all read messages or emails that were so riddled with typos and grammatical errors that they were practically incomprehensible. You don’t want to be “that guy” in the class that irritates everyone with error-filled posts, so work on your written communication skills if necessary before you enroll. Even if you are confident in your skills, take the time to proofread and spell check all of your discussion postings before you hit “send.” Remember, you’re making an impression on both your classmates and professors — people you might need to later ask for recommendations. Do you want to be remembered as the guy who responded “ditto” to everyone else’s posts?
Be Willing to Share Experiences With People You Haven’t Met
One of the advantages of enrolling in an online degree program is the chance to work with other students you might not otherwise meet. However, because you might never meet them in person, you need to be willing to place a certain amount of trust in them. Be willing to be open and honest when sharing your work and life experiences. That doesn’t mean spilling your guts with every post, but share your experiences so others can learn from them as well.
Do Not Ignore the Surveys
At the minimum, you’ll be asked to complete an evaluation at the end of each course; however, many times professors will ask for feedback in the middle of the course. Don’t ignore these invitations, but instead provide honest and constructive feedback. Some professors will make changes to the course based on those responses that will help you get more from the course or clear up any confusion.