Online Courses: 8 Tips for Mastering the Classroom of Tomorrow
Online courses are quickly becoming common-place in the life of a traditional (and non-traditional) college student. What once was a novelty reserved for electives is now a staple of major coursework on the path toward a degree.
High schools are even incorporating the online course into their daily routines. This trend will likely grow with time. In the following article, we’ll be discussing some of the advantages of online courses as well as offering our 8 tips for making the most of yours. Let’s log on!
The Advantages of an Online Course Are Clear
Some of us were just graduating college when the online course was in its infancy. Even then, we saw huge potential for it, especially those of us who’ve always considered ourselves “self-starters.”
After examining the phenomenon of the online course, 4Tests presents the six key advantages of attending one. We’ll cover each in some depth before telling you how to take your online course game to the next level. Here are the ways you benefit.
1. You Work at Your Own Pace
With an online course, you get to pick it up and leave it behind when you decide. Aside from the occasional check-in, the work is mostly independent. Of course, the caveat to this is that students who aren’t used to that type of freedom may waste valuable time and procrastinate. As long as you’re aware of the risk, though, you can avoid it.
2. Everything You Need Is Usually a Web Browser Away
Some classes weigh you down with 10-pound hardback books, binders, assigned reading from other books. You name it. It can feel like you’re getting a good workout simply walking to class. Online courses are different.
With an online course, you usually have everything you need digitally. It’s all easy to access from any electronic device or web browser. That doesn’t mean you’ll forgo the physical media. But you shouldn’t have to lug it across campus in a game of “beat the clock” any longer.
3. More Freedom to Choose
Online courses also give you greater freedom to choose where and what you end up studying. If you want to take a screenwriting course through the University of California-Los Angeles, you can do so with confidence. If you’d like to take a political studies course from Harvard University, knock yourself out.
That said, universities have their own stringent requirements for whether they’ll accept you as a student. But as long as they do, it’s possible to get the very best training in the world without leaving your home or apartment. As online courses increase in availability, this advantage will become more pronounced.
4. Could End Up Lowering Education Costs
Education will always have costs associated with it. There is no getting around that. You have to pay the teachers and purchase resources needed for an adequate education. But there are many costs wrapped up in education that really do nothing to increase your understanding while placing a hefty price tag on your tuition bill.
Just think about every physical renovation that a university does. That has to be paid for somehow. And a university’s biggest source of funding is its students. But does an ornate clock tower really do anything to enhance your understanding of biology or [insert subject area here]? Of course not!
Online courses give us the chance to leave behind these unnecessary costs and make higher education of the future more affordable than ever before. It just needs more widespread adoption.
5. Allows You to Earn While You Learn More Easily
It’s very tough getting an employer to commit to you when you’ve got a specific class schedule you have to work around. The online course creates more flexibility by not tying you to specific hours. If you want to work your way through school and limit the amount that you borrow, you can get a job first and do your work in the off-hours.
Of course, going this route requires a certain amount of responsible thinking. No one is going to be there to make you balance your obligations. And there’s a temptation to chase after the quick dollars of a part-time job while letting school work fall by the wayside. So make sure you’re emotionally prepared for the challenge ahead.
6. Better Prepare You for the ‘Real World’
The so-called “real world” – that intimidating landscape of work and bills and independence – will not tell you to do your homework before you eat dinner or brush your teeth before bed. Online courses function in a more authentic way to the real world because they force you to keep up with responsibilities and pick up any slack without constantly being prodded to do so.
Any amount of career advancement will eventually require the employee to take initiative and succeed or fail on their own understanding. With an online course, you have to assume the roles of student, parent, and teacher to make sure everything gets done properly.
The 8 Tips
Now that we’ve covered the perks of taking an online course, it’s time to think about how you can make sure your experience is a good one. After all, you don’t want to use the online route as an “easy way out.” You want to truly get something out of it. And these 8 “do’s” will get you to the finish line with a high-quality education that’s virtually indistinguishable to the terrestrial classroom.
1. Work from a Good Connection
Online courses require that much of the work be done on a computer (duh). And these days that means access to the Internet is mandatory. Beyond the research and productivity enhancements that it allows, it also incorporates technological advancements into the flow of the class. You may need to do a Google Hangout or a Skype Chat with your teachers or group members. That’s tough to do if you are not working from a quality connection.
So make sure your bandwidth is enough to handle the demands of an online course. If you’re wondering how good of a connection you’ll need, just think Netflix. If you can stream a movie or TV show no problem, then you can probably handle a video conference or chat session.
2. Choose an Environment Conducive to Learning
Even though your class is fully “online,” you still have to access course materials and handle any communications from a physical work environment. Choosing one is just as important for online courses as it is for anything else that requires intense focus.
How one person works well may not necessarily work for another. The important thing is to know the environments where distractions have the least effect on you. Schedule all your work sessions for those areas, and be mindful of times of day to avoid foot traffic.
3. Make Time to Make It Personal
Taking a class online may seem like it removes the “human factor.” But in reality, that’s even more vital to your success through this form of coursework than it is the traditional classroom.
It’s the fact that you don’t have an established time to meet with your professor or classmates that makes the human factor so important. You have to seek it out when necessary. And it will be necessary because it’s important to see how what you’re learning is applied to the offline world. You can learn a lot about that by meeting with your instructor and fellow classmates throughout the semester.
4. Take Initiative!
Don’t wait on your instructor to tell you when or how to do something. Follow their guidance as best you can, but take initiative with each homework assignment, each test, each class project.
The more you’re able to show initiative in your online coursework, the better you’ll perform. And the better you perform in the college world, the better you’ll be at demonstrating initiative in the next phase of life.
5. Work from a Calendar
Online courses, especially with a full-time course load, are as demanding as any other. And to keep it all straight, you’ll need an easy-to-follow method. The best thing to do is to buy a desk calendar or use your phone. Set aside some time at the start of the course and, in coordination with your other classes, mark the major due dates as noted in the syllabi.
By getting project presentations and end-of-unit exams planned far in advance, you won’t get blindsided by the major assignments from any of your classes. That extra vigilence will come in handy when you’re adjusting to the required amount of independence needed for successful completion of an online course.
6. Journal Your Thoughts and Questions
An online course may not give you every opportunity to ask questions as they come to you. It also may be more difficult to take notes, understand what the instructor is saying as he says it, and learn from your fellow classmates.
You need a means of internalizing the material before you walk away from it (until the next class period). Keeping a journal is a great way of making sure the knowledge you acquire is retained over the long term. Try to make your journal entries as soon as you’ve engaged with the material. Go the handwritten route to avoid the oversights that too much technology can cause.
Writing with the hand creates a deeper relationship between the page and the brain. Documenting what you’ve learned in such a way will help cement it so that it becomes more than just memorization. It becomes an integrated cog in the gears of your mind.
7. Do All Assigned Reading
Yes, the course is online and that implies more freedom. But don’t treat it any differently when it comes to the assigned reading. You’ll still need to cover all of that material by a certain date. You may think you’ve found a shortcut around it (i.e., Cliffs Notes, movies, online summaries, etc.). But there’s no greater substitute than engaging first-hand with the material through the act of reading.
Take those assignents seriously. You may not have a short-term homework assignment over a passage of required reading. But you’ll eventually be judged on it. And it’s best to learn as you go than having to cram at the end.
8. Broaden Your Scope of Resources
Your teacher will give you plenty of resources to help you learn the material. But don’t stop there. YouTube, Udemy, and a variety of other websites offering both free and paid online courses can help advance your skill-set so that you’re able to keep up with or stay ahead of your classmates.
Anything that helps you glean more insight will pay huge dividends long after you’ve received your final grade. So use your off-time to see what else is out there, both on and offline.
Online Courses Are Here to Stay
If you thought online courses were a fad, you were dead wrong. It’s possible that one day major universities will give you a completely digital path from freshman year to advanced degree. Until that time, let’s keep applying ourselves in both environments. And if you find yourself enrolled in an online class, do your best to count your blessings and put forth your best effort.
What has been your experience with online courses? Do you like ’em, love ’em, or loathe ’em? Share in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Homemade Entrepreneurs]