Going Back to School Online? Set These Expectations First
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If you're looking at going to school online, you're probably looking for flexibility and convenience. While those are two great aspects of online education, there are other points to consider, too. You’ll want to be at least a little tech-savvy with a self-starter attitude. Add in the lower costs benefit, and you’re probably wondering why everyone isn’t jumping on this online school train?
Because it isn’t for slackers and unmotivated types.
As long as you understand online school is a bit different than traditional school (and you’re willing to adjust accordingly), you’ll probably do just fine.
Curious about going to school online?
Here’s what you can expect:
Technical Difficulties...Not Today
Before the first day of classes, be sure everything is in working order. As an online student, it’s important to know exactly how your tech equipment works. From your laptop to your inbox, you want to make sure all is well in your technological world. A tech glitch could put you behind faster than you think.
Here’s a mini checklist:
✅Create a file for all of your coursework
✅Buy an external hard drive
✅Log into your school account
✅Review materials and syllabus before classes start
If you’ve bought a new laptop specifically for your new online classes, make sure you’re familiar with all the operating systems. You’ll also want to make sure your browser works well with your course program well before the first day of classes.
Coursework is Different (In a Good Way)
From the start, you'll notice coursework online is quite different from traditional school coursework as there’s many more digital resources to use.
Modules - Each week you’ll focus on a new module with specific knowledge to study. Each module may have reading material, lectures, videos, and more for you to view each week.
Timed assignments - While you may have taken timed exams before, there’s a little more pressure when you have a timer sitting on your screen ticking away. Chop-chop.
Participation is different - You might have to comment on a lecture video or respond to forum discussions. Each program is different, but you'll want to make sure you keep up with your participation to get the most out of your learning experience.
Support is Available
Just because you’re hanging out in yesterday’s yoga pants and taking quizzes from your laptop 💻 doesn’t mean you’re in online school alone. It may feel like it when the only classmate in your room is your plant or dog, but you’ve got connections available.
Online mentor/professor - Don't wait until the last week of classes to ask about extra credit or for clarity on something you don't understand. Your professor and online mentor is there to help from the start — not just at the end when you need to pass.
Education counselors - Anytime you have a question about course load, academic path, etc. reach out. Your education counselor or career counselor should be your first point of contact.
Other online students - Most online courses have a forum for students to connect and ask questions. You may also have access to an email roster with your fellow peers’ contact information on it. Reach out — that’s what it’s there for!
Time Management is a Must
One of the best parts of online education is the flexibility factor. If you like the idea of being able to fit school around your hectic schedule, you’ll need to have on-point time ⏰ management skills.
24/7 flexibility - Sure, you can take a quiz at midnight. Or even do all your reading ahead of time. However you like to learn, use it to your advantage with online courses.
Discipline matters - Self-motivation is a must for online students. It’s easy to push off reading or assignments until the last minute. Discipline yourself to set a schedule and stick to it.
Don’t miss deadlines - You don't have a professor reminding you in-person that your assignment will be due next week. It's on you to remember your deadlines. Use a master calendar to schedule these out.
Set Reasonable Expectations
So, how hard are online classes? It depends. If you’re motivated and self-disciplined, online classes will be easy. There’s a lot of flexibility with taking online classes, but it also takes a certain amount of organization and discipline.
Additionally, if you pick a program that interests you, it’s more likely you’ll enjoy a majority of the content. In turn, it won’t be difficult to get the work done on time.
Only you can judge whether online classes are the right fit for you. With so many program lengths and options available, there’s a lot of opportunity to see what works best for you!