Tips to Survive the Online College Experience

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According to a 2015 Learninghouse report, 5.5 million students are choosing to complete their degrees online. The report highlighted the importance of earning a degree for those interested in shifting to a different career. Although, partaking in online classes offers different challenges than joining classes in person. Whether you’re planning on building on your associate’s degree or enrolling as a first-time student, you’ll want to make the most of your experience. Here are tips that can help you survive the online undergrad experience:

Students working together on laptops

Study Tips

Twenty-seven percent of online students surveyed by Learninghouse noted that one challenge associated with online learning is the ability to focus. To combat that, you can find a quiet space at home where you know you won’t be interrupted when you are reading or completing an exam. If you prefer to work at a coffee shop, listening to music may help you focus. The Guardian recently delved into the question of whether music can help with focus – and discovered that it can. Listening to music you enjoy that has medium levels of syncopation can block out your unconscious brain’s ability to focus on the person loudly sipping coffee next to you.

Studying for finals can also leave many students in a cold sweat. Developing strong study habits throughout the semester can help you fend off finals-stress. USA Today suggested associating your new material with information you already know. For instance, if you like Mad Men, you can think of examples from the show to help you study for your marketing exam. You may also be better with explaining a concept or a chapter to another student. Your comprehension will likely be stronger by using your own words. Just make sure to take time for a proper night’s sleep during exams week!

Having strong study habits during the semester can ease your stress around important deadlines for each of your classes. But what about tips to succeed during class? Several publications suggested checking that your laptop or desktop is fully compatible with all of the software your online classes use. That way, you can spend your time preparing for class instead of struggling to download the assignment. In addition, it may be tempting to only log on once in the beginning of the semester and when major assignments are due – but try to log in at least once per day. That way, you will be prepared if the professor moves the deadline on your next paper or suggests extra reading. Many students can feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading assigned in an online class. Combat that by blocking out time during the week to work through your materials. It will give you a chance to fully absorb the information at your own pace.

U.S. News and World Report also noted the need to observe proper online etiquette. Most of the communication between students and professors happens via email and discussion boards in an online class. This lack of body language or verbal cues can make it hard to read tone or intent. As a result, it can be easy to have a phrase misconstrued by another student. Author Bradley Fuster noted that you should refrain from posting anything to a discussion if you’re feeling angry or frustrated. If you’re still not sure about the post, you can send it to a friend to double check it’s okay. Or, if it’s a larger assignment, like a final term paper, block out time to review it when you are feeling calm. That way you can get the most out of your online experience.

Productivity Tips

Balancing a job, family and homework can make it feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. It’s tempting to keep your phone or work email on at all times while completing your coursework. However, it can be easy to get distracted by the constant pinging of your smartphone when you should be reading for class. Switch your phone to silent to help you stay focused. The Muse also suggested the 52-17 rule for maximum productivity. It found that individuals who were most productive worked for 52 minutes and took 17-minute long breaks. The secret behind this productivity tip, the source noted, is focus. You can apply that lesson when reading for class or studying for an exam: Focus only on your work for 52 minutes, then switch to a relaxing task. You may find that you’re spending less time working as a result.

Entrepreneur magazine had another hack that students who are balancing careers can take advantage of: Do your most important – and most challenging – work first. You’ll be less likely to walk away from your work when it gets difficult. In addition, you’ll be less likely to feel frustrated if you tackle the work first. The key is to not spend too much time on one piece of coursework. If you’re still stuck after exhausting your notes and other resources, you may want to reach out to the professor for help.

Social Tips

While there are many benefits to taking online classes, one of the drawbacks is losing the spoken social element of getting to know your classmates and professors. As these classes take up hours of your time, it’s important to stay social too! Classes may offer optional live sessions – participating in these sessions can be a great way to get to know your classmates. College prep site College Raptor suggested sending an email to a professor to introduce yourself or to periodically check in over the course of the semester. College News also suggested taking advantage of discussion boards and interacting with other students. These efforts won’t go unnoticed by your professor. In addition, make time for activities that will keep you feeling healthy and refreshed offline. Reach out to your social network to take in a movie or order dinner with a friend.

You can also sign up to join local professional organizations. Many organizations hold monthly mixers, which can be a great way to meet other professionals in your field. You can also attend events held by thought leaders in your field to learn about the changes happening in your industry. If you are transitioning into a new career, these events can be a tool to learn more about a career path you’re interested in. You could use these events as mini informational interviews. Who knows – it could lead to an internship or job opportunity.

Internship Tips

Internships are becoming critical to a well-rounded academic resume. According to U.S. News and World Report, 65 percent of 2015 graduates completed an internship or co-op. The publication noted there are several benefits to accepting an internship: You will accrue experience of working on a team with a range of individuals with varying levels of experience. In addition, you can receive guidance from professionals in your chosen field.

Finding a mentor can be critical to landing an internship: According to The Muse, mentors can use their real-world experience to guide you as you embark on your career. That can help you avoid common pitfalls that would otherwise slow you down. They can also be a good resource for how to improve in the workplace. Receiving feedback from someone you trust and respect over the course of your internship can go a long way. You can also make the most of your internship experience by asking for a recommendation on LinkedIn. These small changes can help you maximize the value of your experience, whether it is in-person or remote.

For some individuals, they can use their internship to springboard into a full-time position after they complete their degree. Interns can start the conversation about full-time opportunities before their program ends. Come prepared with ways you’ve positively contributed to the company and how you think you could continue to do so in a full-time role. If you’re earning an online bachelor’s degree to assist you in switching careers, an internship could help strengthen the technical skills you need for a new role. It’s important to end the internship on a positive note, The Huffington Post recommended. You can have a planned out schedule to finish all of your projects at least one week before your internship’s end date. In addition, don’t be afraid to keep in touch! When going into interviews, many HR professionals require professional references. Having one or two individuals who have supervised you – and who can speak to your positive traits in an office environment – can go a long way.

Maximize the value of an online degree

Earning an online bachelor’s degree is an opportunity to move your career forward. It can provide the tools to solve business challenges across multiple industries. In addition, you can attain personal satisfaction from reaching the milestone of completing your degree. Make the most of your experience by applying these tips to help you achieve your goals. To learn more about the online bachelor’s from UAB, schedule an appointment today.


How Smart Students Survive Online Classes