Online degree programs have grown at an exceptional rate in the past decade. The virtual classroom has enabled students to tailor their learning around their busy schedules. While one student may find it empowering to take business courses and never have to leave the office, another appreciates the option of finally completing a bachelor’s degree just after the children have gone to bed. Whatever the reason, online courses and degree programs are in high demand. Even traditional universities and colleges are offering more courses online.
Although taking courses online makes it more convenient to bring the classroom home, it is virtually inevitable to avoid taking challenging courses along the way. So what is a student to do when faced with a difficult online course? Abandon all hopes and dreams of obtaining a degree? Absolutely, not! Just because a student sits in a virtual classroom, corresponds with fellow students around the country and submits their work online, doesn’t mean he or she should miss out on the opportunities afforded to campus-based students.
As a Student Advisor, I’ve heard it all. For every student that tells me, “I’d like to take this class on campus,” I receive several resounding statements of “No, thanks, I’d prefer to take this class online.” Who wins what battle varies from quarter to quarter, but in the meantime, what can students do to get the most out of a challenging online course? Make the course residential.
Yep, I said it. Make challenging online courses residential. Students in online courses can create their own convenient residential learning opportunities in the following ways:
Create Your Own Study Group – Study groups are a great way for online students to come together and collectively exercise knowledge. This allows students who are stronger in certain areas to help classmates who may be struggling and vice versa. In my experience, students who work in study groups often benefit from teaching each other through review of course material because they are applying subject matter concepts.
How do you initiate a study group? It’s simple. Just use the communication tab in your online class to send an e-mail to the entire class. Ask your classmates if anyone would be interested in forming a study group local to the area you live. Be sure to find a location that is central to all group participants. This could be a park, library, bookstore, civic center or reserve a classroom at a local campus site.
You may even find instructors or local tutors who are willing to attend your study group sessions to provide assistance where needed. If you have classmates that reside in another city or state, consider hosting weekly sessions with them via Skype® or other service that uses a webcam.
Study on Campus – It is not unusual to discover that online students live within a few miles of campus (even if it’s not their home campus). That’s perfectly fine. If you find yourself in tough online course, take your work to campus. Students that work from a campus library, learning center or computer lab often perform better than they would if they were studying from home because that space is designed specifically for study. The same philosophy applies to your local city or county library. Making a trip to campus or local library allows you to work in an environment that is centered on learning. On campus, you will also have access to student mentors, tutors, librarians and learning center coordinators who can help you if you need extra assistance.
Keep in mind these tips are not limited to online students. Residential students can also reap the benefits of working closely with other students. In fact, such activities are encouraged by the faculty and deans of the Rasmussen College community. Establishing relationships with your classmates through study groups and getting comfortable with a local campus (and its resources) are just a few ways you begin sowing the oats of applied knowledge and success.