Online college courses have become a common method for students to achieve their educational goals. The flexibility and convenience of online classes has put higher education within reach of many people who, for a number of reasons, wouldn’t be able to attend college otherwise.
Don’t mistake, however, the convenience of online classes as being somehow easier. An online class can be every bit as involved and challenging as a traditional, on-campus classroom. In fact, an online class can be challenging in different ways because you won’t have a professor reminding you of deadlines. You also will communicate with your instructor and fellow students via email and online chat rooms and forums, so you won’t get as much face-to-face interaction.
Due to the different nature of online courses, it is imperative that you stay organized and take upon yourself the responsibility of meeting deadlines and turning in all assignments on time. Implement the following strategies to help you stay organized with your online courses.
1. Know your technology
Don’t wait until the first day of school to figure out how to navigate an online college’s educational platform. Once you gain access to your course after you’ve enrolled, login and start poking around. Read the entire syllabus and preferred methods for submitting work. Colleges offering online courses will have some form of technical support, so be sure to take note of where you can access those resources so you know exactly whom to contact when any issues arise.
For older or less computer savvy students, enrolling in an online college class shouldn’t be something to fear. Many colleges offer free basic computer courses to get you up to speed. Resources such as digitalliteracy.gov can also provide valuable help during your online college experience.
2. Create a study space
To study effectively, you’ll need a tidy space that’s free of distractions. Find a quiet, low traffic area. For some, perhaps a home office or a desk in your bedroom will do. Be sure to limit your usage of social and entertainment sites, such as Facebook or YouTube, to help you stay focused.
3. Use a reliable internet connection
As you know, you cannot work on your class without internet access. So, make sure you have a reliable, high-speed internet connection in your home. In case your internet goes out, find a place that offers free WiFi, such as a local it’s important to have a backup plan, such as going to a nearby coffee shop or library.
4. Be organized
You should also keep your files organized on your computer. Start by creating separate folders for each online course on your computer’s desktop or somewhere else where you can access it easily. Doing so will save you from having to rummage through the depths of the C: drive to find it. Make a habit of saving every file into its corresponding folder for easy retrieval later. Also, keep a calendar of all your deadlines to ensure that you turn them in on time.
5. Make a plan and stick to it
For some, this might be the most difficult part of online college. The convenience of online classes can take some of the urgency out of studying. In this sense, online courses may require more discipline than traditional classrooms.
There are many ways to remind yourself to stay on task. From smartphone reminders to strategically placed post-it notes, find what works best for you and you’ll have no problem staying on top of things.
6. Use organization smartphone apps
Your smartphone can be a valuable organizational tool for managing your online college classes. Apps like Evernote, Tasker, Wunderlist, Offtime, and many others are excellent tools to keep yourself on track.
In addition to managing your tasks, there are several apps that can help you actually do your online coursework as well. Believe it or not, textbooks can often be accessed from your phone. Presentations, spreadsheets, and word documents can be also created conveniently on your phone, which can be a lifesaver in those situations where you need to create a project on the fly.
7. Write things down
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your organizational needs can be met exclusively through digital means. The tactile act of writing with a pen and paper has been shown to improve categorization skills, memory, and overall cognitive well being. Not to mention that handwriting might be quickly becoming a lost art.
Online college courses have many benefits, but also bring their own set of challenges. By having a solid organizational plan of attack, online classes can be just as rewarding as any traditional college experience. Make a note of all your deadlines, and use apps or a calendar to help you stay on track. Just be sure that you log-off of Facebook long enough to get some actual studying done.