Back to School Tips to Make Your Life Easier

college-onlineOnline higher education is surging in popularity. According to the 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, the number of students taking at least one online course has surpassed 6.7 million, an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year. Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.

Succeeding in an online course requires many of the same healthy habits as a traditional course. However, there are some differences in an online environment that can surprise many students. Dr. Mindy Sloan, vice provost of Research & Innovation at Ashford University, offers the following tips to achieve online academic success.

Reliable Technology: Have technology tools that you can trust. A reliable Internet connection and computer is a must.

Software: Have the software tools needed to complete your assignments. Microsoft Office, for example, allows you to write papers and create presentations in widely used formats. Select tools that will allow your instructor to easily access your work.

Netiquette: Just as in an on-campus classroom, there is appropriate conduct for an online classroom. For example, using all capital letters in an email is like shouting.

Professional Writing: Save the abbreviations for texting. Expressing yourself effectively in an online course requires formal communication.

Plan: It is easier to keep up than it is to catch up. Make a realistic appraisal of how much time you will need throughout the week to achieve your academic goals.

Login Throughout The Week: Online courses generally require ongoing contributions throughout the week. Make sure you login to your course and complete meaningful work.

Review All Course Materials: A common mistake is for students to jump quickly to assignments and overlook critical guidance posted by an instructor. Review the scoring rubrics and other information that will be used to evaluate your work before you complete any assignments.

Use the Plagiarism Tool: Too often, students fail a program, course or assignment because they have failed to appropriately cite materials. Use tools such as TurnItIn to identify work that would be defined as plagiarism.

Utilize Resources: Many universities have a resource center, writing centers, libraries and other outside classroom supports to help you earn the grades you seek on assignments.

Push Notifications: Many online courses allow you to “push notifications” to your cell phone or other mobile device. Use them to keep up even if you’re not at your computer.

Scholarly Resources: Oftentimes, students don’t take full advantage of materials available through the university’s online library. Soon after you are admitted, and even before taking your first course, access the online library resources and familiarize yourself.

Provide Feedback: Students are typically invited to complete an end of course survey. A quality university or college takes your feedback seriously and will use it to improve teaching and curriculum.

Build Relationships: You can develop meaningful relationships with peers and instructors. Always be professional, but share your experiences. Demonstrate that you understand the materials and that you can apply them.

Elevate Discussions: Elevate your discussion with peers by providing a personal example; asking an intriguing question; providing an outside resource; linking the ideas of two or more peers; noting patterns among responses between peers; or offering a contrasting view.

Proof: So much of your knowledge will be demonstrated through your writing skills. Carefully review and proof your work before hitting submit.

Create Work In Another Document: To save yourself potential frustration, create your work in a separate document. Cut-and-paste it into the course shell when you are ready. This also provides a back-up copy.

Work Space: Identify and claim a specific location where you can do your online work. A reliable Internet connection, electrical outlet and perhaps a printer will be critical to your success. Help others understand that this is your “school space” and should be used only by you as you complete your courses.

Train Your Friends and Family: Create a culture that reinforces your academic success. This often means making friends and family understand that you are not available, even though you may be in close proximity.

Block Out Time: Build your own start and stop times throughout the week. Create a time specifically dedicated to your online course.

“Online courses offer greater flexibility, an appealing characteristic to today’s learners, but they also require the student to dedicate the same time and energy as a traditional classroom,” Dr. Sloan concluded. “The right tools, resources and discipline are essential to success.”


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