I feel like there is always a point of debate with online anything! Some people vehemently oppose the programs, while some people swear by them. I want to preface by saying that I have done BOTH programs. Undergrad was definitely realtime (even though, at that time, online programs weren’t actually a thing, and computers didn’t come internet ready—yes, this was also a thing, remember???), and my first masters was real time (while working full
time). I opted for an online program for my last masters and my most recent degree.
Overall, each program type has it’s pros and cons, but I am not getting into that here. Instead, I’m reaching out to my fellow online program attendees and those of you who are interested in getting a degree online.
Here are a few tips for you if you are currently in this situation or will soon find yourself in this situation.
#1: You need to be organized. This rule goes without saying. When your online course begins, it is the expectation that you know how to locate all of the information and course materials on your own. It is expected that you’ve made sense of all of the expectations, requirements, and dates and that you will alert the professor of any discrepancies on your own.
#2: You need to be a self-starter. You should not require a great deal of prompting and direction if you are going for an online program simply because you do not have that one-on-one, face-to-face experience. I’ve had professors who utilized talking avatars or required phone conferences, while I’ve had others who simply communicated via email only. Because communication styles vary, you have to be self-starter who can advocate for yourself in order to be successful.
#3: You need to be able to hold yourself accountable. Just like a good workout, you get out of your program what you put into it. If you know something needs to be done, get it done. I have literally been sitting at parties doing homework. You have to put in the time and hold yourself accountable for the things that are required of you.
#4: You need to create a work schedule. This tip is going to help you keep up with work and maintain some sense of normalcy. One thing that is true is nothing is worse than falling behind in a course—you have to stay on top of things! In order to do so, you need to create a schedule and stick to it! It’s less likely that you’ll fall behind.
#5: Use your words carefully! Words are powerful. We’ve all sent a text that wasn’t received well and there are many of us who HATE to text because of how they can be perceived. The same thing happens online! When you are interacting with your peers in the discussion boards, play nice! Be careful with your wording so that your comments are not perceived in the wrong way. One of the things that drive your online experience is how well you interact with your peers. You don’t want to isolate yourself—yes, people will NOT respond to you online and that can be frustrating.
#6: Technology is now your best friend! You need to become comfortable with technology. You have to become savvy with completing online research, uploading and downloading a variety of items, various communication tools (email, prezi, wikispaces…), the list goes on. There will be times when you are going to have to virtually present things to your class. As a result, I’ve become more savvy with making videos and I even created avatar for myself. If you fear email, you’re going to have to get over it!
#7: Course evaluations are key! This is not your time to vent, but make meaningful comments about the course itself. When things are not working well in an online course—dates in the syllabus don’t sync to dates in online calendar, or, one of my pet peeves, the readings are not clearly labeled—it becomes a HUGE nuisance. There isn’t a person with whom you interact in real time, so it’s important that you highlight what went well and what needs work, so that the powers that be can make improvements for the next course.
Online programs can be a saving grace if you want to pursue a degree, but do not have the time available to sit in class for long periods of time. Don't hesitate to apply to a program if you are interested in furthering your education. I hope you found this list helpful be it you're already enrolled in a program or you are seriously considering one. I’ve found these tips have helped me survived over the years!
If you haven't done so, you can watch the VIDEO for this blog, and if you have any questions, please feel free to CONTACT ME.