If you’re starting out in an online program, or even just thinking about studying online in the future, there are a few simple things you can keep in mind to ensure your learning experience is a positive and successful one. As a veteran instructor of online courses, I’ve found the following online learning strategies to be my go-to advice for new students.
Communicate with your Instructors
Make an effort to personally interact with your professors, either online or in person. While on-campus students can drop in during weekly office hours to talk with faculty, it isn’t as easy for an online student unless you live near your campus. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. You can always set up a quick Skype session or, if a vacation brings you closer to campus, you can drop by and introduce yourself. Another idea, if you live in a city not too far away from your campus, is to ask your instructor to organize an informal get-together with students who live in the same area. I’ve done this in past semesters, and have found it to be very helpful. We all enjoy getting to know each other better, and students’ feedback and questions allow me to modify course assignments to better serve their needs.
Stay On Schedule
It seems self-evident that keeping up to date in an online course is crucial, but veteran online students know this to be an essential truth. If you set aside a defined period of time each week to complete the assigned readings, watch the online content module for that lesson, and then complete any assignments with time to spare for at least one revision, you will do well in an online course. Your comprehension of the online presentations will be greatly enhanced if you do the related assigned reading in advance. We don’t assign the readings as some kind of cruel torture, but select them carefully to enhance your learning. If you don’t carve out this weekly time for your studies, you will start slamming in your assignments on deadline and you won’t be pleased with the results. If you fall behind in a course and start skipping assignments, you may find that the zeroes start to pile up and you might fail the course.
Another important concept to master is the effect of repetition and spacing on your ability to retain what you have learned. The old cliché about “third time is the charm” has proven very accurate. The key to retention is to leave four to seven days between three separate exposures to the material. For example, if you read the assignment in the textbook on a Tuesday, then are exposed to the same content in viewing the online course module on a Sunday, and finally are quizzed on that content a week later, your retention should improve dramatically. The key is to review the material at the points that forgetting sets in. If you practice the “three passes” technique at the prescribed intervals, I think you’ll find that your retention and comprehension of key course content should enhance your enjoyment of any course you take online or on campus.