What to Expect From an Online School or Distance Learning Program
Learn how to be the most successful online student.
Every online student wishes to be the “top” student, earn high marks, and be of value to the class. But the reality is that not all students are fully prepared to start their online school experience. If you have recently enrolled in online school, but have never taken an online course before, you may be left wondering how to make the best of your upcoming educational experience.
The tips that apply to being a successful student in an online course differ from being successful at a traditional school. This is due to the fact that the type of learning is completely different. Online degree programs frequently require more interaction and a greater amount of personal determination to succeed.
Before you begin your online classes, make sure you do the following:
- Order your textbooks through the campus bookstore to ensure that you will receive the correct edition. Ordering your books in advance is paramount to succeeding in online school because completing the assigned reading is often the only way that you will learn the course material.
- Find out which course management system your school uses. If possible, take an orientation of the program before the start of classes so that you better understand how to navigate the system. In some cases, the professor is allowed to choose a different course management system. Contact your professor before the start of classes to make sure you have learned the correct software.
- Download a web browser that is compatible with your course management system. You don’t want to get to the first day of classes and find out that you can’t access the material.
- Pay your tuition bill, or double-check that your financial aid is set to be disbursed. Not having your tuition bill paid on time can mean a late start to the semester, or worse, being banned from starting classes until the next semester.
Online School Community
This is a chief concern for those considering pursuing an online degree. Prior knowledge of social networking is helpful, as this simulates the forum in which you will be interacting with your professors and peers. Unless you are taking a “blended” online program which incorporates both distance and on-site learning, you will receive zero face-to-face interaction with your classmates. Classroom discussions may be held through Instant Messages, Email, chatrooms or bulletin boards. It is essential to be a key participator in classroom discussions because this is the only time you have to make connections with your peers and teachers.
This form of communication may seem impersonal to some, but many students report having more classroom interaction and in-depth discussions through their online courses. Proponents of online learning also maintain that this type of discussion better simulates how to interact in the professional world. It is not uncommon for co-workers to Email correspondence, rather than have a physical conversation because it often saves time.
Concentration and Online School
Time management skills are essential to the online learning process. Without a teacher physically there to push you towards excellence, you need to be the sole motivator for yourself. The successful online student must have the concentration to read course materials, participate and study on their own accord.
There is a significantly smaller amount of supervision in online schools. Setting aside time daily will help you work through your course load bit-by-bit, stay on top of your studies and not fall behind. Students who are active learners report learning more in their online classes than they did at traditional colleges. This may be due to the more dominant role an online student plays in their education.
Despite this, do not feel as though you are on your own when it comes to distance learning. Professors will make themselves available through a variety of methods to help you through any course-related problems that may arise. Additionally, a technical support team should be accessible to you to troubleshoot any problems you may have retrieving course material.
Online Students’ Computer Savvy
Online school requires a decent amount of computer savvy in order to be able to complete coursework. Having a personal computer that you are familiar with is recommended, though not absolutely necessary for those pursuing an online degree. Along with a personal computer, a strong high-speed internet connection, Microsoft Word and Excel and RealPlayer are all tools that will help you be successful in your online class.
Similarities Between Online School and Traditional Schools
Now that we’ve gone over the main differences between online learning and campus classes, it’s time to talk about the similarities. This is an often overlooked, yet important topic in discussions on online school. Just like any other class, at the start of your online course, you should expect to receive a full course outline, detailing quiz exam and assignment due dates. Your course should be just as challenging as its counterpart in a traditional school.
Distance learning online is equal to learning in an on-site course, providing the same quality, amount of credits and learning outcomes. Online teachers are expected to deliver clear and concise directions with each phase of the course. Online students should always know exactly what is expected of them including, what assignments to read, what to do with the information and how to submit assignments.
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