With 6.7 million students enrolling in at least one online course in 2011, it’s no secret that online learning has gained popularity in recent years. But if you think online learning equates to easy A’s–think again. Although online learning is convenient, it can be problematic if the incorrect approach is taken. As someone who has done online learning for the majority of my educational career (including my time here at Regent), I am no stranger to the challenges of online learning. When I first attempted online learning, I found myself frustrated and isolated at times by that lack of face-to-face contact with professors, and the difficulty I had connecting with classmates. For those who are new, online learning can be overwhelming. Over the years, I have learned a few tips that have not only made learning new material online easier, but also allowed me to maximize my overall e-learning experience.
1) Stay Organized
I’ve found it impossible to focus on learning new material when I’m unable to keep track of files, books or other materials. Keeping materials organized makes life so much easier, and it is important to find a system that works best for you. I recommend deciding on a system of organization at the start of each semester. Whether its keeping old-fashioned notes and labeled notebooks (as I do), or employing file labeling system on your laptop or desktop, staying organized will make completion of projects much less stressful by enabling you to focus on the material at hand.
2) Use Time Wisely
Utilize your time effectively by prioritizing and scheduling your tasks. Using a planner or calendar has helped immensely in my efforts to stay organized and stress-free. No one wants to have deadline-driven projects pile up at the last minute. It’s important to look ahead at your course syllabus to get an idea of the due dates for future assignments. Marking those due dates on a calendar or organizer is crucial, as is creating road signs along the way. If a project is due on March 15th for example, be sure to not only mark that date, but also perhaps mark a reminder on March 9th. I’ve found that prioritizing assignments and scheduling time blocks into my daily schedule for working helps me stay disciplined with my time management.
3) Reach Out and Connect
Although you may be hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away from your campus, be sure to reach out to others who are sharing your experience. As a seasoned online learner, I am fully aware of the tendency to feel isolated. Yet I’ve also found that exchanging contact information with other students can be very helpful. When email is not enough, several universities (such as Regent) offer their distance learners opportunities to use Skype or other video chat software as a means to communicate with professors, guidance counselors or other students. You might be surprised to realize that other students are struggling with the same challenges as you, and taking advantage of video chat platforms can help you to feel more connected and foster a greater sense of community.
4) When All Else Fails, Pray!
This advice may strike you as facetious, but time has taught me that the power of prayer simply cannot be over-stated. It is important to stay spiritually balanced during all educational pursuits, and online learning is no exception. Frustrations are bound to occur when working towards such a time-consuming and difficult goal, but neglecting our spiritual walk will do nothing to alleviate stress. Philippians 4:13 tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. So while working on time management, be sure to prioritize time for the Lord and grow in our faith with Him. I’ve found it vital to stay connected to a support group of prayer partners and mentors in my family and church.
Online learning is indeed challenging. However, utilizing these tips can help new learners to succeed. It is important to take a practical approach to staying organized and equally vital to use time wisely. Fostering a sense of community with classmates and professors is enriching to the experience of e-learning. And perhaps the most important tip for success is prioritizing time for growth with God. Online learning continues to grow as technology progresses, and having the tools to be successful in a non-traditional classroom format is vital to success in today’s professional industries.