How to be a Successful Online Learner

woman on laptop

In today’s technologically driven world, the gap between what it takes to succeed in a traditional classroom versus an online university has narrowed significantly.

It’s difficult for any student to graduate these days without at least some measure of technical savvy. Without it, he or she would find themselves lost at sea in a job market that increasingly requires computer skills, even for entry-level positions.

Many of the resources recommended for online students – the blog Online Learning Insights, for example, suggests reading the course syllabus and planning weekly study time – are just as essential for students attending class in physical spaces.

Still, online learners do face additional challenges, including distance and discipline. Here are five tips for overcoming those hurdles.

Log on to class regularly

An educational model with asynchronous classes in which students don’t have to be logged onto their computers at a set time can make it easy to put off a session when something more urgent or fun pops up.

Don’t succumb to that temptation! Even if your class doesn’t meet at a regular time you can set your own dedicated class time. Doing so will help you hold yourself accountable.

Ask questions

In an online class, the professor doesn’t have students’ puzzled looks as a cue to try to clear up a point. That means it’s usually up to students to raise a virtual hand via participating in a discussion group or by emailing the professor.

Discussion groups hold certain advantages. Educause Review points out that instructors often provide deeper, more thoughtful responses when they’re writing for a discussion group compared to when they’re answering off-the-cuff during a lecture. The writing skills that you develop by posting questions and participating in discussions will also serve you well in the corporate world, as this article at Edutopia points out.

Be an online presence

More than simply taking classes, online learning is an opportunity to join a wider intellectual community, which has many intangible benefits. Check out online student organizations and weigh in on class discussion groups even if you don’t have any particular questions. You might find yourself learning more from a classmate’s excellent query that hadn’t even occurred to you.

Part of the learning process often involves having your points challenged or even criticized at times. This happens in physical classrooms, too, though sometimes a difference in opinion expressed in text can come across as curt versus one expressed verbally. Take it all in stride, and don’t take it personally. Above all, remember that questioning often leads to stronger learning.

Reinforce what you learn

Students at brick and mortar schools congregate in coffee shops or in the halls before class and talk about the lecture. Online students have to work a little harder to find those opportunities.

Discussion groups are a great place to start, as are your family and friends. Explaining what you’ve learned is an amazingly effective retention method. Don’t be shy!

Interactive quizzes are another way to quickly reinforce that chapter that you just read while discovering and shoring up any weaknesses to address. With platforms such as Constellation and Ashford Mobile, it’s easy to do this from anywhere.

Embrace the differences you’ll encounter earning an online degree. You’ll find that many of the skills particular to online learning will serve you well in the workforce and throughout your academic career.

Written by Ashford University staff.

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