Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Five tips for being a successful online student

(ARA) - A growing number of students are attending college classes online instead of going to a bricks-and-mortar campus. Research showed a 17 percent increase in online enrollments from 2008 to 2009, with more than one in four college students now taking a course online, according to a 2010 report by the Sloan Consortium.

A U.S. Department of Education study also found that online learning can even result in better performance than traditional settings. But what does it take to succeed in a virtual classroom, where teachers and students are connected by technology?

"Online learning can be more convenient, effective and rewarding than traditional classes, but convenience doesn't mean it's easier," says Gwen Hillesheim, interim chief academic officer and provost of Colorado Technical University, a leading provider of education for career-motivated students. "Successful online students need to be proactive in their studies and take responsibility for their own learning. It takes self discipline and time management to do your best. But when the student is engaged, the learning can be significant and the experience fulfilling."

If you're an online student or considering taking virtual classes, here are five tips to help you succeed in a distance learning environment:

* Know how and where to ask for help. Online students have access to most of the same services as on-campus students - registrar, career services, academic advisors, library and financial aid. Check if the online university also offers chat rooms or discussion groups, which are great forums to interact with other students, ask questions and talk about assignments.

* Budget your time. As a general rule, for every credit hour, allocate two to three hours a week for study, homework, reading and research. This is in addition to listening to or watching online lectures. Establish a study schedule and stick to it. For those juggling work, family and school, consider posting your school schedule at home and work so that your family and colleagues know when you're committed to studying.

* Create a dedicated learning space. Since you aren't going to a traditional campus, it's important to find a place to do school work - somewhere that's comfortable, well-lit, free from distractions and has the necessary technology, resources and supplies. Consider your home office or set aside a corner of your family room or bedroom to study.

* Focus on how you learn best. When comparing online universities, find out if the course delivery and materials are a good match for how you learn the best. Colorado Technical University, for example, lets students personalize the way they learn in 11 different formats within the online virtual campus environment via M.U.S.E., short for My Unique Student Experience. Students have the option to watch, read, hear or interact with supplemental course materials.

* Follow the course schedule. Even though you don't necessarily have to be in a classroom at a specific day and time, make sure you review the course syllabus, highlight important exams and deadlines, and post in your dedicated learning space.

"Pursuing an education online takes dedication," says Hillesheim. "Those who have a good support system and self discipline are the most successful in completing their degree, no matter the age or life situation."

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