The internet has become increasingly important to education, and partially or totally online classes will only be more common. I find myself taking several this semester. Online classes can be a great way to pick up knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise have time for, but they also present unique challenges.
When you can do something at any time, it’s a lot easier to put off doing it. You find yourself pushing it back because hey, you can “get to it whenever you feel like it”. This is compounded by the fact that, being intangible by nature, online classes lack any physical sort of reminder of their importance.
Rather than telling yourself you’ll do your online classes whenever you have free time (you won’t), set aside a specific time to work on them and stick to it. If you have more than one online class this is doubly important. Whether you’re going to take them one at a time (my prefered method) or make it a real class schedule with different classes each day, having that set time will help you stay focused and actually get through your classwork.
This may defeat the purpose of working on the material “whenever you have time”, but there’s a reason traditional classes are so effective and part of it is their regular schedule. You might lose some of the flexibility of online class by doing this, but that’s kind of the point – it makes you get down to business.
Google is Your Friend, Sometimes
When working online, it can be very tempting to just search the web for every answer. I encourage everyone to make good use of the internet when it comes to knowledge – but first, at least try to get it on your own or with the materials your online class taking portal provides you. While search engines are a tremendous resource (that am I as guilty of using to help with my schooling as anyone) I’ve discovered that they aren’t as helpful with the inflexible nature of online classes. Often, problems in online classes require a specific answer to get them right and the resources you find might not put things in the same way as the course’s authors did. This can be frustrating, but ultimately what matters is learning the material provided so you can pass the course.
Have a Class Buddy
Just like real-life, in-person classes it helps to have someone taking an online class “with” you. Just like a normal class, it helps to have someone working on the same things as you are so that you can bounce ideas off of them and help each other out when you get stuck. You will also keep each other honest when it comes to keeping up on the coursework. Much like having a gym buddy, having a class buddy can help you stay on track.
Remember Why You’re Working
Whether its to knock out a graduation requirement you can’t take elsewhere, get a class out-of-the-way over the summer, or take care of business on your Master’s degree while working a full-time job, keep in mind what your goal is in taking this class. If you keep your eye on that prize, it will be that much easier to keep to the schedule we discussed earlier. Nobody wants to sit down and devote an hour to reading a textbook on their computer screen at the end of an eight-hour day, but it needs to be done – don’t let yourself lose sight of the long-term benefits it brings!
Hopefully these tips will help those of you in the same situation as I am right now. How do you keep yourself on track with online work? Let me know your tips in the comments!