Whether you are starting a new semester, a new school, or a new year, setting goals can help you find success as an online student. Distance education students in particular can benefit from working towards three goals: finding their motivation, developing effective study habits, and managing their time.
GOAL #1: FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
Success in a distance education program begins with finding motivation.
Staying motivated is far more important than knowing the best study strategies. For some good grades are a good source of motivation, others simply want to graduate. It doesn’t so much matter whether you wish to impress your family, get a better job, or simply obtain more knowledge – what matters is that you find something to motivate you to succeed.
GOAL #2: DEVELOP EFFECTIVE STUDY HABITS
By developing effective study habits, you’ll get better grades and be able to study for less time. First, figure out what your learning style is and use it to your advantage. Straight memorization is rarely necessary for an online course and will frequently take up large amounts of time with little actual learning being accomplished. Instead, try to take notes about the material and seek to understand the ideas and methods behind what you are studying.
If you don’t understand something, ask a fellow student.
If the course doesn’t allow interaction with other students, or you still don’t understand something, ask the professor. Most courses encourage you to directly email or call the professor and you shouldn’t hesitate to do so.
When reading new material, use active reading to briefly skim the subject matter and pay special attention to breaks and section dividers created by the author. Skimming the material in this way will allow you to quickly compose a summary of what is covered within the chapter and make notes of key points you’ll need to master. Creating notes on the key concepts will save you having to re-read material in the future when you prepare for final examinations.
Mastery of a concept comes down to one simple test: Can you explain the concept to someone else, and do they understand it when you do? Even though your course may be entirely outside a classroom, you should still practice speaking aloud to explain the material. If you find yourself unable to do so well, then you have a good indication of what you need to review again.
If your online course requires you to turn in large writing projects, take a break after you finish writing them then come back and proofread. If you have time, take a night to sleep on the assignment before returning to proofread. A break in between proofreading can be of huge assistance to you in making sure that the assignment is error free and actually makes sense.
GOAL #3: MANAGE YOUR TIME
Effective time management is also crucial to mastering an online education. Some courses allow you to complete them at your own pace. However, most do have some sort of deadline or schedule with upper limits on how long you may take to complete the coursework. Leaving final exams or long projects until the last minute is an easy way to do poorly in a course. Rather than procrastinating, a better method is to review the course requirements and plan the amount of time it will take to complete the course. Once you have measured the time requirements, it will be easy to break that time into daily and weekly increments to ensure you complete the course on time and at a reasonable pace.
Keep up with the course and you will avoid getting overwhelmed. Try not to study for too many consecutive hours. A good rule of thumb is if you need to study in excess of an hour at a time, make sure you take a 5 minute break each hour to get up and move around. Rest your eyes and arms from the computer regularly and be sure to reward yourself each time you accomplish a goal, or complete a course section.
Using the methods outlined here should give you a leg up in your courses. Occasionally, even when you’re studying like crazy, you may find yourself doing poorly in a course. If you find yourself struggling despite your best efforts, you need to contact your professor. Instructors are there to provide assistance and can ensure that you understand the subject properly. If you are struggling due to non-course related events, your instructor should be able to suggest options or direct you to university resources that can help you be successful.