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How to Succeed in an Online Degree Program

Dec 22, 2007
An online degree program is different from a traditional degree program in more than just the way you attend classes: It also requires a different kind of commitment from you as a student. In general, an online education works best for students who are good at motivating and regulating themselves. However, just saying you're a self-starter isn't enough. Here are three things you need to be able to do in order to succeed.

Keep a calendar and a to-do list: In an online degree program, just as in any traditional program, you will have assignments to complete on your own time. The difference is that in a traditional classroom setting, you have instructors to remind you about your assignments, and a set class schedule to keep you on track.

Whenever you start a new online class, one of the first things you need to do is locate the syllabus and the class schedule. Be sure to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the classroom setup, as due dates may sometimes be listed in several different places. Then be sure to write down all of the due dates throughout the semester. If you rely on checking the website, you're almost sure to forget at least one.

There are several different ways to keep track of due dates and reading schedules. One is to buy a planner or calendar and write down all of the assignments under the correct dates. However, you will need to be sure to glance ahead regularly, so that you don't forget about your assignments until the day each one is due. A calendar program on your computer or online may help with this, as you can usually set an alarm to remind you in advance.

Another method is to keep a to-do list of all of your writing assignments and their due dates. Be sure to also write down when you should have read each chapter in the textbook, so that you don't fall behind. If you combine the assignments from several different classes into one list, be sure to keep it in order of when assignments are due, so that you don't inadvertently overlook one.

Schedule time for coursework: Because an online degree program does not have set times when you need to attend class, many online students forget to set aside time to check their classes and do their homework. If you are the type of person who works well with a schedule, block out time each week that you can spend on coursework. Depending on your schedule, you may prefer to work on schoolwork only on certain days; or you can work on it every day, but for a shorter period of time.

If a set schedule every week won't work for you, because of varying work schedules, family demands, or other responsibilities, try to schedule each week individually. You will need to spend a certain amount of time per week per class in order not to fall behind, and scheduling time to work on schoolwork is the best way to be sure that happens.

The luxury that you have as an online student is that you can work on coursework at any time of the day or night. For students who have to maintain a full-time income, who have family responsibilities, or who can't schedule the rest of their lives around classes, an online degree program is ideal. However, it is important to remember that a flexible schedule is still a schedule, and you will still need to put in your time if you are to pass your classes.

Read the textbook: In many traditional classes, students don't bother reading the textbook unless an instructor indicates that a certain passage is important. Instead, they rely on the instructors to lecture about the information they want their students to learn, using the textbook primarily as a study guide before exams.

In an online degree program, however, you don't have the instructor's lectures to learn from. You are responsible for learning the information yourself, which means you need to read the textbook. Even if the instructor does provide online lectures on the course website, they are most likely written documents that you will have to read anyway.

The other thing that online classes lack is the note-taking requirement. Taking notes during a lecture actually helps you remember the material, because in order for it to get from your ear to the paper, your brain has to process the information and tell your hand what to write. Because the online class format skips this step, it is often harder to learn the course material in an online class, again making it necessary to spend more time reading the textbook and studying.

Although an online degree program is harder in some ways than a traditional setup, it is also easier and more convenient in other ways, making it a more appealing choice for many students. As long as you can keep track of your assignment due dates, set aside enough time to do your coursework, and put the necessary effort into learning the course material, you should be able to successfully earn your online degree.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Virginia College. Virginia College Online offers many accredited programs. Visit Virginia College Online at http://www.vconline.edu to select the Online Degree Program that is right for you.
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