What's it like to learn online?

Skills that go beyond coursework

There are tons of benefits to learning online. There is more flexibility in your schedule, no commute and you can start practicing life skills that will prepare you for success in school and at work, including:

  • Improving time management skills.
  • Learning how to motivate yourself.
  • Improving online communication and writing skills.

As the American workforce continues shifting to work-from-home formats, learning online is a great way to set yourself up for success -- no matter where your degree or certificate takes you.

Six key tips

Many students wonder what skills they'll need to be successful in online courses. The truth is, your experience is what you make it!

1. Expect to invest the same time online.

Since online classes make it easier for you to attend college while balancing a busy schedule, there's a common misconception that they're less demanding than in-person classes. Learning online demands just as much dedication and time as in-person classes. You'll need the discipline to sit down and say "I'm going to work on this," and follow through.

You must “show up” to get real value out of your class. Treat your online classes the same way you would an in-person class and you’ll be off to the right start.

2. Set goals and check in with yourself.

Set goals at the beginning of the semester, and follow up with yourself throughout the week. Are you scheduling enough time throughout the week to complete your assignments? Do you need more reminders about upcoming due dates? 

In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal and visual reminders of upcoming due dates. Without a professor actively reminding you, you may find it helpful to set calendar reminders, or enlist the help of a classmate or friend to be your accountability partner.

3. Practice time management.

A big advantage to taking classes online is being able to manage your own schedule. Practicing good time management skills can help you avoid cramming right before tests or handing in assignments at the last minute.

  • Plan ahead.
    • At the start of the semester, review your syllabus to note all major assignments and due dates. Note them on a calendar that you regularly use.
    • Create a weekly or daily schedule, designating certain hours each week to reading, studying, completing assignments and participating in forums. 
    • Set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • Try time-blocking while working on assignments. Give yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one. 
  • Avoid multitasking. Focus on completing each task before moving on to the next. Multitasking is known to decrease productivity!

4. Block out distractions.

It's easy to get distracted by social media or just browsing online when you need to concentrate on your studies, but you can eliminate distractions that are unique to you.

For example, if you're distracted by your cell phone when you get a notification or text, it may be helpful to download an app like Cold Turkey or Freedom that can temporarily block those apps or websites.

Another common distraction is studying in a noisy environment. It may be helpful, to study at the library or coffee shop instead.

The bottom line is, there are a ton of tools to help you block out distractions!

5. Lean on your community!

Online classes can sometimes feel like you're learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around collaborating with your instructors and classmates.

Build relationships with other students by introducing yourself and engaging in discussion boards through Blackboard. In addition to creating new friends, you can work with your peers to keep each other accountable to homework and form online study groups. It's likely that your peers will appreciate it just as much as you will.  

6. Get help when you need it.

Our online students have the same support resources as our in-class students. We're here for you, no matter where you are.

What would you like to do next?