Long gone are the days where you’re spending thousands of dollars to sit in a physical classroom and avoiding eye contact with the lecturer. Online education is a reality for even the least-funded schools, though it is far from a replacement for traditional learning. Although online classes are not for everyone, they offer their own unique advantages. Some students use them to get around scheduling conflicts with other courses, hold a day job, or avoid an awful professor. With the rising cost of college, students are trying to be as efficient with their education as possible, and online education is one answer to that problem.
However, online classes present their own issues as well. Students are more likely to drop or fail an online course, and anyone who has taken one can tell you that this is partially due to lack of motivation. With no set class time or instructor physically present, students have to rely solely on intrinsic motivation. Some students can succeed with that, but many need some external pressure. Traditional learning is not possible for every student, though, so what’re you supposed to do to succeed in online classes?
1. Stick to a Schedule
Even though you don’t have a time and place you have to be every day, you should pretend that you do. Look at how many credits the class is worth, and schedule times that you should be working on it accordingly. This is important not only from a time management perspective, but also from a motivational standpoint. If you stick to a schedule, eventually it won’t seem like an option. You will know that you work on German on Wednesdays at 11:30, and plan around that.
Of course, there are going to be a couple times that this schedule doesn’t work out. Maybe your mom is coming into town on Wednesday and wants to go to lunch, or that’s the only time your group can meet to work on your presentation. But these instances are no reason to fall off of your schedule. You should approach this with the same mindset as an exercise regimen or a diet. Will you blow up if you skip a run or eat a piece of cake? No, but the danger is if you let that become a habit. The same is true here: while you might not be able to stick to your schedule 100% of the time, it’s more important that it becomes a habit to complete your classwork at a specific time every week.
2. Try Different Productivity Techniques
Everyone will respond differently, so you should try a few of these to see what really works for you. Some people need more or longer breaks. None of these are hard and fast. Feel free to modify them if you need to.
Also take into account the coursework itself when designing these techniques. Some online courses require a lot collaboration, and you will have to rely on a classmate to finish their task before you can complete yours. While frustrating, this scenario is reflected in the “real world” as well, so get used to it. However, don’t let them ruin your productivity. Just because Hailey hasn’t finished her work cited page doesn’t necessarily mean you get the day off. Access what needs to be done, and if you have some extra time, use it well.
3. Be Honest With Yourself
Most universities offer you the chance to drop a course within the first couple weeks of a semester without a penalty. Don’t let the easy stride of syllabus week delude you into thinking you can handle it all and party. Actually look at the syllabus and see what is required of you. If it’s too much, consider dropping it now.
Well, what if it all caught up with you later than that, and now you’re well into the semester? Look at your university’s deadlines for withdrawals or incompletes. Either of those are better than a failing grade. Don’t let yourself ride it out until finals week, realize you can’t handle it all, and then plead with the registrar. They will not budge policy for you, so you need to have an honest assessment of your abilities. If you can’t finish the coursework with a grade to be proud of, drop the class earlier rather than later.
Online courses can be a powerful resource if used correctly. Make sure you take into account your schedule and abilities before signing up for one. Despite the flexibility that they can lend, online courses actually force you to impose your own boundaries, and not everyone has the responsibility required to succeed. However, as long as you are honest with yourself, taking online classes can be a step forward in your education.