Posted July 07, 2014 by

5 Tips for Success When Taking Online Classes

Young girl at home learning on her laptop with books

Young girl at home learning on her laptop with books. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you plan on taking online classes, be prepared for a totally different learning experience.

Looking into a computer screen to earn a college degree is a relatively new phenomenon and students should alter their study techniques, schedules, attitudes and more to be successful. Below are five tips to help out students new to online learning.

1. Select An Accredited School

Online education is booming. According to a 2009 report from the Sloan Consortium, over 4.6 million students took at least one online course in 2008. That’s 17% growth over the previous year, which greatly exceeds the 1.2% increase in the overall college student population. Yet not all online schools are accredited. Be sure to select a regionally accredited school.

There are six regional accrediting agencies that determine if schools meet the Department of Education’s standards. Students who take courses at a regionally accredited school should be able to transfer their credits to another program and they’ll also be viewed in a better light by potential employers. Students who complete an online degree program that is not accredited will graduate with degrees that employers do not view as legitimate scholastic achievements.

2. Pay For Up-To-Date Technology

Before committing to online classes, research exactly what kind of technology the classes use.

Most online classes merely require a fairly modern computer with an internet connection. Yet others will require that the student have a high speed internet connection, a specific operating system and the ability to play DVDs. Make sure that your current computer and internet connection are up to par before signing up for the classes. Take this advice from a Bellevue online college student who says: “Computers are not always reliable…always have a back-up plan just in case something goes wrong during your quizzes. Do not wait until the last moment to take your quiz [online].”

3. Maintaining Self-Discipline

Since you’ll be all by yourself at your computer screen, you won’t have the motivation of a group setting to spur you onwards. Being all alone can make studying, starting projects and staying on top of coursework quite a challenge. This means that you have to be your own motivator in order to avoid procrastination. You don’t want to be pulling all-nighters the night before an exam or a project is due. The key is to stay organized, keep ahead of the work load and to plan ahead.

4. Financial Aid

Even though you are taking courses online, they still cost a significant amount of money. You should be aware that financial aid is also available for students who earn credits and degrees online. Financial aid is especially easy to procure for those who are from low income families and those who are taking college level classes for the first time. Once you send in the FAFSA (Free Application for Free Student Aid), the Department of Education will look at your information to award you financial aid in terms of subsidized student loans and grants.

There are also a number of scholarship opportunities for online students, and a number of websites built around finding the perfect scholarship for you. Consider setting aside a decent amount of time to applying for grants and scholarships. It’ll be worth it to take the time now and graduate debt-free.

5. Ask Questions

While you will be physically alone at your computer, you won’t be alone in spirit. You’ll be constantly interacting with fellow students and professors online. These communal spaces include web forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards, blogs and more. Some online classes even use VoIP technology like Skype for face to face interactions.

Take advantage of these interactive opportunities to thoroughly learn about the subject matter. This means asking plenty of questions. Not only will asking questions help you better understand the course material, it will show your professors that you have initiative and a genuine intellectual curiosity about the subject. Keep in mind that plenty of other fellow students in your virtual classes will likely have the same questions as you do. So, do everyone a favor and ask.

By Zack Jones

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