If you’d like to advance or change your career, getting an online degree may be your best route to achieving that goal. Online education is designed to be flexible and convenient so you can complete your studies when and where it works best for you.
It’s understandable to have questions about online education, especially if you’ve never studied online. What if you’re not sure you can manage everything? How do you make the most of this opportunity? There’s a lot to consider when going back to school, and you need somewhere to turn for answers.
We asked academic advisors for online universities and colleges to share their best tips for e-learning success. Here are some things to keep in mind when you pursue your online degree.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Success in an online program (and many things in life) is all about taking ownership. The most successful students take personal ownership of knowing their program requirements, communicating to their professors, planning their study and work around deadlines, knowing their own limits, knowing their goals, and knowing when to ask for help. It’s important to know that you have a team of people who are willing and able to help you. But that also requires knowing what you are responsible for and being proactive about asking for assistance when it’s needed. You can do this!– John Jenkins | Online advisor for 2 years
The best advice I can give is to reach out to instructors and program coordinators when you’re struggling. The instructors and program coordinators want to have more of a connection with their online students and are invested in their success!– Ariel Fischer | Online advisor for 4 months
My best piece of advice for a prospective student would be, if they’re ever in doubt, don’t be scared to reach out for help. Too many times, students reach out at the last minute or when it’s too late to solve a problem they’ve been scared to ask about. Students have all sorts of support around them who are more than happy to help, so they should take advantage of these resources at every opportunity.– Conor Shea | Online advisor for 1 year
I cannot stress enough the importance of self-reliance for an online student. Part of being self-reliant is advocating for yourself. If you don’t understand an assignment, you must be proactive in reaching out to the professor; no one can help you if you don’t ask! It is always better to reach out as soon as you identify a potential issue rather than waiting until the day the assignment is due. Your instructor is there to assist you — do not worry about “bothering” them!– Shannon Doll | Online advisor for 3 years
Students can be successful in an online program by being okay with asking questions. If you don’t understand something, that’s okay. I’d rather talk through it with you so you feel comfortable. There are some students we never hear from, and those are the ones that tend to not do as well.– Gregory Waddell | Online advisor for 1 year
Organize Your Time Well
The best piece of advice I can give prospective online students is this: schedule time for homework and protect that time. Don’t think the time is just going to manifest or that you can complete everything for the week in one day because this doesn’t leave any room for life emergencies. Review course syllabi early and write down the due dates for big assignments so there are no surprises during the term!– Jessica Minyard | Online advisor for 5 years
I have two main things that I always tell my students. There’s a lot of evidence out there showing that your environment impacts your success, so I always tell my students to find a consistent place to do their work. Second, I tell them that the best way to beat procrastination is a system. Find what works for them and stick to it, whether that’s something digital or something written (or a combo!).– Whitney Boswell | Online advisor for 2 years
I would say for a student to be successful in an online program, they need to make sure they can be responsible with their weekly schedule. Having the freedom of being in an online program can be a double-edged sword. You don’t have the constraints of being in a physical classroom at a certain time, but you do have to be responsible enough to find enough time in your week to dedicate to your courses.– Will Bolin | Online advisor for 2 years
My best advice to students is always [to] use your electronic calendars. It seems simple enough, so simple it feels unnecessary. But I cannot stress how beneficial it is to sit down at the beginning of the term and create reminders for assignment due dates; it can be your saving grace when your busy with your everyday life and nearly forget to submit that term paper. Believe me because I’ve been there!– Emily Hendrick | Online advisor for 4 years
My best advice to have a plan in place. Know exactly when your time for schoolwork is and keep to that schedule. You may need to adjust your plan as you settle into classes and get a feel for what your program is going to be like, but if you don’t have a specific plan, it’s very easy for it to get away from you and become overwhelming. Scheduling your time for school just like you would your other commitments keeps it a top priority. If you have questions about making a plan that works for you, your advisor is a great resource.– Dani DeVincentis | Online advisor for 3 years
Other Tips for E-learning Success
I would encourage students not to be afraid to connect with their classmates, especially if they live in close proximity to their campus.– Bradford Hirsch | Online advisor for 4 years
To be successful in an online program, I recommend networking within your program. Your peers and instructors are a diverse group of people who also share your goal of earning a degree. These are people who have your same interests in your program, and likely have experiences in the field that could be inspiring. Reach out to them and connect! One of our greatest resources is each other.– Kyle Campbell | Online advisor for 1 year
One major piece of advice I have for prospective online students is to always stay curious about your degree; continue to research educational outcomes for this type of degree and research your school or program to understand what you are getting into as best you can. It is up to you, the student, to understand your degree, career outcomes, and how this will be beneficial to you both personally and professionally.– Taylor Metzing | Online advisor for 3 years
The biggest piece of advice I’d give incoming students is this: Getting a degree is hard, and it will mean taking some time away from other areas of your life for a while, but I encourage you to treat the time you devote to your degree as a gift to yourself because that’s exactly what it is. Every minute you devote to completing this degree is going to help you achieve your dreams. Don’t lose sight of that, and graduation will be here before you know it!– Taylor Elliott | Online advisor 2 years
The advice I find myself giving students most often is to honor their limits and remember that self-care comes first. It’s important to know the difference between burnout and a healthy challenge so we can ensure we are pursuing our goals in a sustainable fashion. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, the first thing to do is reach out to your online advisor. We will help you devise a strategy to help you recuperate and get back on track.– Corey Ferger | Online advisor for 10-plus months (on-campus advisor for 2 years)
Making the Most of Your Online Degree
Online education could be the key to pursuing your dream career. By learning when it’s convenient for your schedule, you can fit in your educational needs with any work and family commitments that you have.
Keep some of the aforementioned tips in mind when you start learning online. By asking for help, scheduling your time well, networking, and more, you’ll ensure your success during the program and beyond. Make the most of your opportunity by learning the skills and knowledge needed for the next step of your career.