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24 things online students must know

By Michael Crump | 18 August 2016


Online education is a whole new world compared to traditional schooling, but it’s one that anyone can master. If you’ll be starting your own online classes soon (or if you’re thinking ahead to a future online qualification), there are more than a few things to consider. Online education can be tough but ultimately a wise choice given its flexibility, variety of disciplines and engaging educational content. If you've just started or are thinking of undertaking an online qualification, here are 24 things you’ll need to know:

1. Online courses are available in a huge number of industries.

Subjects like IT and computer programming may seem like a natural fit for online education, but these programs are just the tip of the iceberg. Depending on the online learning institution that you choose to apply to, like Upskilled, you’ll find certifications for everything from beauty therapy to marketing and more.

2. Online courses may be a good option if you’re seeking an alternative classroom environment.

If you struggled with previous schooling experiences - say, if you were too shy to raise your hand and participate in class or disinterested in the classes - you may find the individual nature of online education to be a better fit in terms of its learning environment.

3. Scholarships and government assistance schemes are available to online students too.

Student aid isn’t just available to traditional university students.Online programs offer scholarships and government assistance schemes (like VET FEE-HELP) as well.

4. Making time to study may be difficult.

That said, don’t look at online education as an “easy out.” You’ll still be required to complete lessons, study hard and pass your assessments. If you’re balancing your online education with a full-time job or family caregiving role, making time for these activities may be even more difficult.

5. Your online course deserves as much of your time and focus as an offline course would.

Again, online education isn’t an easier alternative to in-person learning. As such, it deserves as much attention as you’d put into any other in-person course. Don’t assume that online courses will be easier or require less time, simply because of the way they’re delivered.

6. 64% of online students spend less than 15 hours a week studying.

If you’re wondering what, exactly, that kind of requirement looks like, know that 64 per cent of online students count less than 15 hours of weekly studying on their schedules. Only you can determine whether you can fit these requisite hours into your existing calendar commitments.

woman having coffee and browsing laptop

7. 33% of online students say they struggle to stay motivated to study.

The promising thing here is that if 33 per cent of online students struggle with study motivation, that means that the remaining 67% do not. Be aware of the challenges that failing motivation may present, and put the appropriate strategies into place to ensure you don’t fall into this lower third of students.

8. Remembering why you’re in school can help when your motivation is failing.

If your motivation is suffering, remembering why you’re going to the trouble to study can help. Are you hoping to earn a larger salary? Or a better title at your current job? Visualise yourself achieving this goal to stay motivated when you’re struggling.

9. Setting consistent study times can help keep you on track.

One strategy for staying productive - whether you’re feeling motivated or not - is to set a schedule of study sessions ahead of time and not deviate from it.Protect this time and treat it as seriously as you would an important appointment. Once you establish the habit, you’ll find it much easier to get down to business.

10. Apps and other tech tools can help you study on-the- go.

Online students who juggle multiple responsibilities must find ways to be productive, whether they’re studying from their home offices, at local coffee shops or even on the bus. Flash card apps, digital textbooks and other tech tools can help.

11. Staying organised is a must.

With no professor standing above their shoulders reminding them about due dates, online students must be ruthless about staying organised, whether through print planners or apps that track assessment due dates.

12. Back-up all of your digital work regularly.

There’s no using the excuse of “the dog ate my homework” here. If all of your schooling - and all of your corresponding schoolwork - is on time, regular back-ups are a must to prevent hard drive failures, deleted files and other digital mishaps from disrupting your education.

backing up files via USB stick on laptop

13. Your food, exercise and sleep all affect your performance.

Don’t just take care of your digital files - take care of your body. Fueling it well and taking care of it will help you get the most out of your education.

14. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Online education may seem like something you do on your own, but your program should have a number of resources to support you. If you’re ever feeling alone, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

15. Reach out for assistance before it’s needed.

On that note, however, don’t wait until you’re in crisis mode to ask for help. If you foresee a problem, be proactive about it.

16. Explore your online classroom in advance of course deadlines.

One way to be proactive about future issues is to take the time to explore the online tools you’ll use before it’s time to submit your work or take an assessment. The last thing you want is to find yourself rushing around - unable to login to an important system - when your assessment is set to begin.

17. Proofread, proofread and proofread some more.

This goes for students in any higher education setting, but use proofreading to present your work - and yourself - in the best possible light.

18. Be professional in online discussion groups.

Similarly, don’t treat any online discussions you’re required to participate in like chats with your mates. Be professional, and your professors and classmates will treat you with respect.

concept of online discussion groups on laptops

19. You can - and should - still network as an online student.

Networking online may seem strange, but it’s just as critical for online students as it is for those working offline. Look for any networking events offered by your institution or course so that you’ll leave your program with great connections.

20. Find a study partner you can meet with offline.

If you’re having trouble staying on task, reach out to your online classmates and arrange to meet in the real world. You’ll kill the two birds with one stone.

21. Your online program may offer useful real-world resources.

In addition to looking for networking opportunities, see if your program offers career counselling, job placement or CV review services. These real-world resources will ensure you get the most out of your online education.

22. Your boss may not take your schooling as seriously as you do.

It’s an unfortunate reality that some don’t treat online education with the respect it deserves. Don’t allow these people to diminish your resolution. If you struggle to find support at work, use that as motivation to complete your schooling and move onto something bigger and better.

23. You can over-commit yourself with too many online classes.

Don’t let your excitement for your post-college life cause you to rush in too quickly. Be realistic about what you can handle to ensure you don’t over-commit yourself with too many courses.

24. The end results are worth it.

Always hold in mind why you’re getting an education online and what doing so will mean for your life. The struggle to get there may seem overwhelming at times, but when you’re holding your diploma, you’ll find that the end results are worth everything you’ve gone through to achieve your goals - like starting your own business.

While you're at it, you might want to pass this post about all the things all your friends need to know about your study on to your friends. 

woman with glasses cheering with paper and pen in hands

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