3 Steps for Success for an Online Student

I have to admit I was once skeptical about online learning. As a student and as an instructor I assumed you had to be face-to-face in the classroom to learn effectively, but now I’m a big fan of online learning. I’m sure there are some skills (like phlebotomy) that require hands-on learning, but I discovered online education is more convenient and allows for greater interaction with the instructor and fellow students. In addition, high-quality online courses give you an opportunity to demonstrate new skills and more effectively learn from other students in the class. And I was surprised to discover there are only a few key strategies you can put in place to be a successful online student.

1)    Create a learning schedule. Online learning is flexible, and you can schedule the effort around your work and family time. But just like in-person classes, online classes may require papers, quizzes, readings and project assignments. Most online classes will also require you to log-in regularly and participate in the Discussion Forum. To be successful as an online student you need to review the course syllabus and calendar, and then create your own schedule to make sure your time is “carved out” in a way that meets all your course needs. The syllabus is your guide to let you know where you need to focus your time and energy. Anticipate how much time you need each week for each assignment, and write it down on a calendar. With a written schedule you will know in advance if there will be any days to work around (like a holiday weekend).

2)    Communicate with your instructor. In a traditional classroom it is easy to walk up to the instructor and ask a question or explain why an assignment might be a day late, or even  challenge a grade that was  lower than you expected. Surprisingly, it is even easier to communicate with the instructor in an online class. I personally tell my students they can call, text or send me an email any time of the day, everyday.  I may not be able to respond at 3:00 a.m., but I want my students to contact me with any questions or concerns, so I can help them in a timely manner. According to Stephen Gatlin, President and CEO of Gatlin Education Services, online students can’t be afraid to ask questions. If the instructor isn’t available, students should use the course chat room to seek help from other students in the class.

3)    Stay Focused. Traditional classroom learning and online learning both require a commitment of time (and possibly some sacrifices). If you prepare a learning schedule, the key is to stick to it! I’m a procrastinator, so I know what it’s like to wait until the last minute to get my work done. The key to success online is to pace yourself and follow your schedule to make sure you log in, complete discussion posts, turn in assignments, take quizzes, read and anything else the class requires all on time.  And if you get stuck, remember step number two - communicate with your instructor. I always help my students by answering questions, so they stay focused on the critical course elements for successful learning and good grades. 

With the flexibility of online learning comes the responsibility to plan your success. Sticking to your schedule and asking for help when you need it will allow you to be successful in your education. Follow the simple steps above, and enjoy learning online.

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Steven Goodfriend, MBA, is the Strategic Partnership Manager and Adjunct Instructor for the Rasmussen College School of Business in Tampa, FL. He has worked in the field of Marketing and Education for more than 25 years. Steven also has a Masters in Business Administration from The University of Tampa. Steve is the Program VP for The Suncoast Chapter of the American Society of Training and Development and is also active with The Leukemia Society Team-in-Training.

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