Starting college for the first time can be overwhelming for anyone, especially an adult who is venturing into their first on-line courses. On-line courses differ from traditional courses because they require basic computer skills and self-discipline. Some adults may find the self-discipline the hardest task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a few strategies that can work for anyone taking on-line courses.
First, be prepared. Find out the required technology requirements for the courses. This generally includes a computer with regular internet access. Some courses may require a word processing program like Microsoft Office. If you don’t have the program, that’s okay. You can use a free program that won’t give you as many features, but will still allow you to complete your work.
Although it’s not required, a printer can let you print out class material to read and review when you are away from your computer. If you have a printer, print out your course syllabus and any other important paperwork for the class and keep it in a safe place. If you lose access to your computer or internet service, you will still be able to know what work has to be completed.
Time management is one of the most important strategies for on-line learning. Although you don’t have to go to class, you still have to do the work. This will include a lot of reading and writing. Set aside a minimum of two hours for each credit hour you are taking. For example, if you are taking two courses that are three credits each, you want to set aside 12 hours a week minimum for a standard 16-week course. Because course lengths can vary by institution and semester, you may need to set aside more time.
Choose a place to complete your coursework and studying that is quiet, free of distraction and comfortable. The environment you work in can make all the difference in the quality of your work. Make a point to check in on your classes every day to check for updates and important messages.
Online work shouldn’t be completely alone. Communicate regularly with your professor and other students. If you are having trouble, don’t be afraid to contact your professor. He or she should have given you an email contact and sometimes an office phone number if you need to speak directly with them. Often on-line instructors post office hours, which is time where they are available for a chat in discussion area for the course or through email. Take advantage of these hours to get any further help or clarification you may need. Try not to wait until the last minute to get help; this will be easier on you and your professor.
On-line courses are different, but not impossible. As long as you keep to these simple strategies, you will have an easier time navigating this pathway to higher education. If you need additional help, try this self-help website from the University of Oklahoma.