Students who are new to distance learning (taking classes online) are in for a new experience! You no longer have to search for parking places or walk to classes in bad weather. You don’t even have to change clothes! Distance learning is a wonderful experience, but it does present some additional challenges and unique demands. Here are some tips to help ensure your distance learning experience is successful.
Find a quiet place that is free of distractions. Make yourself a comfortable workspace, with lots of room to take notes and keep yourself on task. Show up when the class needs to show up, take breaks when you need to take breaks, and work on labs when you need to work on labs. If you try to listen while getting your oil changed, doing your laundry, or chatting on Facebook, you will not get the learning you need from the class.
If your distance learning is self-paced, this means you can turn your computer on whenever you desire and go to class at any time you choose. While this is convenient, the biggest challenge to success is procrastination. The best way to succeed is to make a schedule and stick to it. Set the expectation that you will attend class at the same time daily to create structure and discipline.
Time management is a critical skill to ensure your success. In online learning, you are expected to look at a list of assignments and meet deadlines. Make your best estimate on how long each assignment will take and do some backward planning to determine your start date. Start early to give yourself some flexibility and always prepare for unexpected situations life throws your way. In many online classes you are able to work ahead because the work is documented in advance. This is extremely helpful for courses that have major projects, and this will allow you to generate questions in advance of the work being assigned. Last-minute work may result in lower grades.
The online environment is much different from being in the classroom. Since, the instructor can not see if the student is daydreaming, taking notes, or listening intently, the student must take a much more active approach to learn to ensure they are getting the most out of the class. Whether you are taking your class live or watching the recording, you want to interact as much as possible with the instructor.
If your class is live, take advantage of the features the online platform affords to chat with the instructor and your classmates. In a “traditional” classroom, if you are unsure of something, it can be intimidating speaking up when the whole class hears your question. One of the advantages of distance learning is the ability to have private “Chat” sessions with instructors. Do not let the lack of proximity stand in the way of reaching out to your instructor, whether by email, phone, Skype meeting, or a bulletin board post.
Also, when asking your question, provide some background on what you have tried to do (successfully and/or unsuccessfully) and exactly where you need support. This will prevent miscommunication in an online setting. Instructors want to see you succeed, so don’t be afraid to virtually meet with them.
While it might be an initial adjustment, online education provides new opportunities to explore the learning experience. We’ve been doing online training for over 35 years and if there is one thing we know for sure — it works! You can do this!
What questions do you have about online classes or learning? Our instructors and career advisors are here to help! Post your questions below.