Going back to school is a big decision — especially if you haven’t been a student in years. Needless to say, school might not be quite the same as you remember it, and choosing to pursue a degree online will add a couple more challenges to the list. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt your study habits and adjust your schedule to accomplish every single one of your goals. Developing a routine that works for you is an important strategy for a successful transition back to the student life, and only one of the ways you’re making an investment in your future by going back to school.
Be prepared and get familiar with your digital learning environment
Embarking on your online education journey shouldn’t feel any different than if you were going to be attending classes on campus. You can still research your classes and find out who your professors are so you have some idea of what to expect on the first day of school. Spending some time navigating the online classroom environment and the tools you’ll be expected to use can’t hurt either. To ensure that students are successful in their studies, universities have developed digital tools that are tailored for online students. These digital tools collect and report data about students, which allow courses to be designed to effectively suit student needs. The newest online delivery system is helping the learning experience become seamless, while also speeding up the learning curve. In particular, the UELD transformative digital MBA experience leverages digital tools to educate business leaders for today’s context. By having a complete understanding of these tools, you can hit the ground running when classes start and not waste any time scrambling to get up to speed.
Stick to a schedule and take advantage of the flexibility of online learning.
Fitting studying into your already busy schedule isn’t easy, but that’s exactly why you need to carve out time every day to devote to your school work. Research shows a strong correlation between designating a time to do school work and the grades online students receive. Having a routine will help you get things done and reduce the time you spend procrastinating or making excuses.
Ed Lyell, professor at Adams State College, suggests, “Many powerful existing institutions will try to stay in the dark ages, however since higher education is funded by student choice—with money following the student—it is likely that both private and public universities will expand their use of technology and diminish their dependence on everything being based on ‘seat time.’” Online courses are designed in a way that you are the one who triggers the next topic. You are the one that decides where and when the best time to study is.
Spend a couple of hours every day doing the reading, catching up on class discussions and updating your notes — just like you would have to spend time in class if you were pursuing a campus-based degree. Unlike campus-based degrees, digital courses have been particularly designed to fit into a busy schedule. Some of the content can be studied over 15-30 minute periods and can fit during your commute time, or even between lunch breaks. This means your study can fit into your life – rather than the reverse. Just because you are studying online doesn’t mean you should spend less time studying, but it does mean you have the choice to manage your time based on when and how you study best. This is an opportunity available to you that is nonexistent in a traditional mode of learning.
Create your own study space
Distractions are everywhere. Whether it’s family and friends wanting your attention, late nights at work, or a new season of your favourite show on Netflix, there’s no end to the things you could be doing instead of studying. If you have a designated study space, blocking out all those distractions will be a lot easier. Not only will it let the people you live with know that you’re in study mode, but it will also allow you to create an environment that you’ll be most productive in. For one, that probably means leaving your smartphone in another room.
Participate and socialize online and offline.
Studying online can seem like an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Collaborative classrooms, lively discussions, and connecting with classmates and teachers from all over the world are possible thanks to innovative communication tools. In a world where your success is partly dependent on who you know, making connections and a good impression on your peers is half the reason for going back to school at all. That’s why time spent participating in discussions and networking with your classmates will never be a waste. If face to face contact is something you’re searching for, some online degrees offer the possibility to meet in person through optional trips and residencies. You can also take the initiative to meet in real life through networking and possibly find fellow students living in the same area. You want people in your industry to remember your name, because you never know where a connection made during an online course could lead.
Don’t forget about balance
Your schedule might be packed full with work, studying and other obligations, but taking some time out to relax should also be a priority. Stay motivated and keep your energy up by using your downtime to do things you enjoy, like catching up with friends, trying out new restaurants, or spending time in the great outdoors. If you can strike a balance between work and play, you’ll be a lot less likely to push yourself too hard and burn out. Use all your time to the fullest and you’ll have no problem accomplishing all your goals.