Online education has its unique advantages but also its unique challenges. The student who recognizes these challenges and knows how to use them to his or her advantage can become a real online superstar – here are a few tips to help students achieve their online education goals.
The Right Equipment is a Foundation for Success
As the name implies, online education takes place online. Don’t handicap yourself by trying to get by with outdated equipment, free “open source software,” or by relying on a slow or unreliable internet connection. Higher education is an investment in the future and part of that investment is getting the equipment you need to succeed.
Each online university sets its own minimum requirements for your computer’s operating system. Check with your school to make sure that your system meets the minimum requirements. Your Internet connection is important, too. Online classes are moving toward more and more video and other types of multi-media resources and a faster internet connection can help you access these types of resources quickly and efficiently.
Having the right software is equally important. For most online courses, you will need a recent edition of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint along with Adobe Reader. You should be able to use this software throughout your online education journey so do yourself a favor and get it before you begin your first class. Plus, most schools offer the software at a steep discount so be sure to check with your school before paying full price at the local big box retailer.
Good Organization is Essential
As mentioned before, online classes move quickly. The challenge is that the assignments seem to come one right after the other. You need to get organized and stay focused to keep on top of your assignments.
One of your first tasks when you start a new class is to review the course guide or syllabus and find out when each and every assignment is due. Whether you use an electronic calendar, paper calendar, or post-it notes, find a system that works for you to keep track of when your assignments are due and schedule enough time to complete every assignment before the due date.
The best tip is to never turn in an assignment late! Many instructors do not accept late assignments, and for those who do, there will usually be a late penalty applied. Turning in late assignments is simply throwing away points. You work hard on your assignments. Make sure to turn them in before they are due so you can earn full credit for your hard work.
Good Writing Skills Earn Maximum Credit
The assignments in most online courses include discussion questions, short written assignments, and longer formal writing assignments. Most of these assignments will have more than one part or question. Be sure to read the assignment thoroughly and answer all parts of the discussion question and address every element of the assignment. Keep in mind that your instructor will not be impressed if your assignments read like a text message instead of scholarly work. Use complete sentences, proper grammar, capitalization, and punctuation, and write in well-formed paragraphs.
Formal writing assignments are almost always required to follow a specific format. APA and MLA are the most common formatting styles. Find out what the formatting policy is for your course, and follow it to the letter.
Many students are intimidated or confused by APA or MLA formatting guidelines and lose points on every assignment for failure to follow formatting guidelines. It is absolutely vital to learn how to format your papers, essays, and other writing assignments in proper style. Take the time to learn how to follow the appropriate guidelines on your first assignment and it will serve you well from day one through graduation. Your school likely offers a Writing Center or similar resource that can help with formatting your assignments.
Prepare for Success
Recognizing the challenges presented by online education and being prepared to meet those challenges with the right equipment, good organization, and solid writing skills will go a long way toward turning you into an online education superstar. Remember – you hold the keys to your future.
Written by: David MacKusick David MacKusick is an Assistant Professor in the Forbes School of Business at Ashford University. He grew up in the Midwest and enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school. When his enlistment ended, he went to work for Northwest Airlines as an aircraft mechanic and, while working full time, went back to school and earned a degree in accounting at Clayton State University in Morrow, GA, and a law degree from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. During his legal career, he worked as a public defender, at the IRS, and in private practice handling tax cases and criminal defense primarily in federal court. MacKusick and his wife live in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where they enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mountain bike riding, and canoeing.