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Online Degree Programs: 5 Steps to Succeed

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5 Steps to Succeeding at Your Online Degree Program

In a perfect world, we would all have the luxury of enrolling in an on-campus degree program. Being on campus and attending class on a regular basis promotes a sense of ownership of the degree program. Putting in the effort to attend class, take notes, and get to know your professor will put you in “school mode” which will make the process more fluid. However, on-campus programs aren’t viable for everyone.

What should you do if you need to take online courses and participate in non-traditional education using your military benefits? We explore your options below.

Choose the Right Program for You: Online vs. On Campus

Many different reasons keep students from being able to be on campus physically. For military-affiliated students, deployments, reassignments, and other factors requiring them to pack up and move can make it difficult to attend class in person while they serve. Are you in a military career with frequent TDYs, PCS moves, or extended in-person military training? Are you a military spouse trying to attend college while stationed overseas? These are all important questions that inform the decision to attend online.

RELATED: Online Colleges for the Military

Take These 5 Steps To Succeed In Your Online Degree Program

  1. Connect With Your Instructor Early
  2. Make A Schedule
  3. Get Organized
  4. Find An Accountability Buddy
  5. Designate Study Space

Connect with Your Instructor Early

Find which instructors could help you or serve as a mentor at the beginning of your program. Reach out to your online instructor or professor early on, introduce yourself, inform them of your military lifestyle and ask them if they have any guidance or tips on how to do your best in their class.

If your instructor knows in advance that your military work could disrupt your learning, accommodating those disruptions will be easier. And that’s only one issue your instructor may be able to help you with…IF they know in advance.

RELATED: What Veterans Need to Succeed in College

Make a Schedule

When enrolled at traditional on-campus program, students have a consistent schedule with classes meeting on certain days. However, that’s not always the same with online courses. Sometimes it’s a matter of having to perform on 2 key tests during the semester and that is it.

Other online courses have some sort of schedule to them. Regardless, to succeed in an online degree program, you must create a schedule for yourself. Set aside time for when you will go online to watch/listen to lectures, when you will read each day, when you will study, and most importantly when you will take breaks.

Many professors will help you with an outline in the form of a syllabus or even give advice on how students have succeeded in the past and what their habits were. If none of this is given to you for a specific class, then it is the perfect opportunity for you to connect with your instructor and ask.

RELATED: 5 Tips to Ensure a Solid Start to Your College Experience

Get Organized

Starting out the semester organized and on track is of the utmost importance. Otherwise, you’ll spend the entire course trying to play catch up. Purchase books before the course begins so that there’s no option for them to arrive late and put you behind.

Make a plan for how you are going to stay on top of your course work. Will you study daily? Or will you study the entire week’s worth of knowledge for the entire weekend? Make goals for yourself at the beginning and hold yourself to them. (Which brings us to our next point..)

Related: Tips To Save Big On Textbooks

Find an Accountability Partner

Just as having a gym buddy makes going to the gym and working out easier, having a study buddy or accountability partner will help you stick to your educational goals.

Whether that is someone that you met from both being enrolled in the same course, a local friend who is also enrolled in a degree program, or even someone you know who is trying to reach a goal that requires a lot of dedication, time, and hard work. Keep each other on top of your work. Don’t let them slip, and they won’t let you slip.

Designate Study Space

If you’re taking classes online, chances are you are using your kitchen table or coffee table as work spaces. But there’s a better way.

In order to ‘turn on & off’ your ‘school mode’ you need to have a designated study space(s) where you do your school work. That way you can better delineate when you are studying and when you aren’t so as to not get distracted in environments that aren’t conducive to concentration. We suggest having a go-to location such as a dedicated home office space or a coffee shop where you only go to study or complete school work.

Some can’t handle the noise and commotion in some public spaces, which is why your local library on or off campus might be a good alternative.

Other Considerations

Some live in areas with spotty reception on cell phones or wi-fi. For online school work, you’ll want to find the most reliable connections possible to avoid dropped conference calls, online presentations, or access to online learining tools like Blackboard. You’ll also want to know the school’s attendance policies when it comes to tehcnical difficulties like not being able to connect to a particular online class session, dropped connections, missed school deadlines due to connectivity trouble, etc.

Add/Drop policy in general may be different for online learning. Know your school’s terms and conditions in this area before you commit to an online learning program.

Haven’t decided on a degree program yet?

If you are still undecided on which online degree program is the best for you and your lifestyle, this “Where to go to college guide” helps map out the different degree options you have and the pros and cons of each. It gives great insight into what each degree program can do for you.