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Pursuing an Online Degree: 6 Tips for Success

Aug 25, 2007
Many older or returning students opt for an online degree. After all, pursuing an education can be difficult when you already have a full-time job, a full load of bills, and perhaps even a family to feed. But the dream of a good education shouldn't have to be turned away because of hurdles such as these.

But pursuing an online degree can be troublesome, too. Many students don't realize what it takes to succeed in an online education setting, and may end up deciding that education just isn't for them. To avoid this happening to you, here are six tips to keep you on track for your online degree.

Tip number 1: Take your classes seriously. This may sound like a given, but you would be surprised how many online students fail to take their responsibilities seriously. Traditional classes require you to clear your schedule, commute to class, and spend a predetermined about of time learning, taking notes, and being reminded of upcoming due dates. Because online classes aren't always in your face like this, it is easy to push them to the back burner, whether intentionally or unintentionally. By constantly reminding yourself that your classes are real, even if they aren't held in a classroom, you can set yourself up for success instead of failure.

Tip number 2: Get organized. A lack of organization is one of the most certain ways to sabotage your education, especially with an online degree. Many online students find it difficult to manage their workload. After all, in a virtual setting, you won't have teachers reminding you at every class of an upcoming assignment or test.

One option you may find helpful is to keep a calendar of important dates, such as assignment due dates and upcoming test. If you prefer, you could also keep a to-do list. The important thing is to write the dates down and keep them where you will be reminded of your commitment on a daily basis.

Tip number 3: Schedule time for doing coursework. One of the biggest reasons students fail to complete an online degree is because they don't take the time to do the work. When you are not going to a physical class everyday, sometimes it is hard to read the text, log in to your class, or do the assignments. An easy way to remedy the problem is to set aside a specific time in which you will do your coursework. You can be flexible with yourself, after all, your need for flexibility is probably why you are pursuing an online degree in the first place. Even if every day is different, you still need to be sure to set aside time that is devoted specifically to coursework.

Tip number 4: Don't wait until the last minute. Many students have the habit of waiting until the last minute to do assignments and study for exams. For a student who is pursuing an online degree, this tends to get even worse, because the reminders of an upcoming due date aren't as prominent as in a traditional class. Doing work at the last minute is almost always a stressful experience, and many students find that their work isn't as good as it would have been had they completed it under less pressure.

Tip number 5: Don't get behind. To make matters worse, some online classes have only a few major due dates, with readings or minor assignments to be completed at the student's own pace throughout the semester. This format enables students to get behind on coursework, allowing the situation to snowball until not just one assignment, but the entire semester's load of work is being done at the last minute.

Tip number 6: Communicate and get involved. While an online degree has many advantages such as enabling you to complete coursework on your own time, it also has some disadvantages. A notable disadvantage is the loss of personal interactions with teachers and classmates. In a traditional classroom setting, the teacher and your fellow students are readily available to help if you need extra help. In a virtual class setting, however, you will need to take the initiative by communicating with the rest of the class via email and class forums.

It has been said that different people have different styles of learning. Unfortunately, although most people can benefit from the flexibility an online degree offers, many people have problems adapting to the different format of an online class. This doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't get your education online, however, it just means you will need to be more attentive to ensure that you succeed.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Virginia College. Virginia College Online offers many Online Degree programs. Visit Virginia College Online at http://www.vconline.edu to select the online program that is right for you.
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