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Tips and Smart Practices for Online Education
By Nora Graves
University of Maryland University College
Like so many areas of our lives, today’s world of fast, easy, high tech access to information and to people and organizations opens up doors and opportunities. One very prevalent and highly controversial area is higher education. Not too long ago, attending a college or university was very restrictive. Courses were offered during work hours during the work week. Students were expected to devote the majority of their days to attendance, studying and researching. This limited who could attend school…those who could afford to spend their days in non-monetary generating activities at a high cost. Community colleges and other more accessible institutions opened up opportunities for the pursuit of higher education through night and weekend classes for many people who did not have the fiscal resources to support a more traditional route. Many of these same institutions, like the University of Maryland Global Campus (formerly, University of Maryland University College), saw the opportunities of more readily accessible education when technology and the internet were rapidly changing all venues of life.
Fast forward 20 years and online education is now far more commonplace and far less controversial. Naysayers can now see the relevance and the changes to our culture with the explosion of online education. Although this platform in delivering education is still very much in the adolescent stages, online education is here to stay. We have learned a great deal and noting some of these challenges is important to the next generation of online learners.
- Be cautious in choosing too many classes and give yourself time to acclimate to your institution’s online platform.
- Make your education an everyday part of your life. Trying to catch up over the weekend will make school incredibly difficult in this forum. Being successful in an online classroom demands that you schedule some time every day to work on your classes.
- Although it is important to devote a scheduled time daily to your education, it is equally important to schedule time away from your work. Your mind needs some down time to refresh and be able to grasp the material with a fresh perspective. Clearing your head with a walk, a jog, time out with family and friends will make a big difference. But, this requires scheduled time.
- Start early in preparing for the classes. As soon as you are allowed access to the online classroom, usually a week before the class starts, allow time to prepare your schedule, familiarize yourself with all available resources to maximize your success, and set expectations for you and your family regarding study time and coursework.
- Keep a visual calendar of your assignments so that they do not sneak up on you.
- Reach out to your professor (virtually) often.
- Reach out to other classmates (virtually) often.
- Take a writing class as early as possible in your academic journey.
- Use all university resources when possible: Writing centers, tutoring services, career services, accommodations, discussion boards, etc.
- Consider hybrid classes. These classes take the best of both worlds by allowing a more personalized relationship with the professor and your classmates while also providing quick access to the online classroom and online resources. This is well worth the extra time.
Make sure you thoroughly understand your GI Bill Education Benefits so that you can maximize your benefit at the particular academic institution that you have chosen.
- If you have access to multiple monitors, use them as they allow access to research, instructions, and word docs at the same time.
- Read your papers out loud; you will hear your mistakes better than see your mistakes.
- Give yourself sufficient time between writing and editing to clear your head and address editing challenges.
- As soon as you have access to the class syllabi, put important dates on a calendar that incorporate your personal/professional commitments and your academic commitments.
- Develop your own personalized style. Consider what works best for you. For example, using a formal outline is not always effective for all students, but greatly helps others.
Online education in many ways is no different than traditional education in that it requires time and commitment. Because the education is so accessible, the time to drive, park a car, walk to class and back is saved. But, the work still needs to be done and without a professor personally reminding the class to remember XYZ, the student needs to be able to become more disciplined in their approach. Consider these tips and practices; consider your own learning style, and then become comfortable in this medium as it is here to stay.