With increasing technology and online tools (like Adobe Connect where you can easily attend webinars), online education is becoming ubiquitous. So ubiquitous that according to The Atlantic, the University of Phoenix (they are the leader and pioneer in online education) graduated 355,000 students last year, which is more than the top 20 largest campuses combined. It’s easier than ever to fit additional education and to update your skills or credentials while continuing to work. Nowadays, you can upgrade your diploma to a bachelor’s degree, you can get an MBA entirely online (with the exception of some on campus weeks once or twice a year), and you can even get a PhD in counseling online from the United Kingdom (of course you’ll need a masters as a prerequisite though).

Many people believe that they are not suited to online education because they feel they do not have the discipline or the ability to simply learn online. Although online education does have its drawbacks (less ability for spontaneous discussion, less ability to share experiences and stories with each other compared to class face-to-face), some people may be very surprised to learn that they are able to retain information via online education quite well. Sometimes the sitting in class passive learning style isn’t best suited for adult learners anyways (with everyone developing multitasking ADHD-type tendencies, it can be difficult to sit still for three hours at a time!). In addition, the other, more obvious perk of online education is that you are able to learn on your own time and your own schedule.

Here are some ways to ensure that you have a positive experience with your online degree:

Find Out How You Work Best

As much as I want to sleep before midnight and rise early, I know I am a night owl and my concentration and creativity seem to be at its peak at night. You may work best after dinner when its quiet and all the children are asleep. You may work better with background noise or better with complete silence.

Because your home/coffee shop/local library may become your new classroom, you need to make sure that it works well for you.

Time Management Skills

This cannot be emphasized enough. Put in your calendar when your assignment or paper deadlines are. With the addition of school on the so called “plate”of your life balance, something has got to give, be it exercise, time for television, or unfortunately even time with family. Allocate chunks of time for schoolwork on a daily basis and make sure to fit in time for a break so you can maintain your sanity. The Life Hack website has 9 techniques on boosting your time management skills.

Develop Discipline

This is probably one of the key reasons why some students are more successful than the rest. The assigned readings for this week and the activities that you’re supposed to do this week are there for a reason. Skimping out on readings, skimping out on interactions with your classmates (to help each other, especially if you know they’re in the same geographic location as you) will only be a detriment to you later on. WikiHow has a little reminder on how you can develop self-discipline.

Get rid of distractions (like Facebook) that are productivity killers. Make yourself accountable. Set daily goals and divvy up your bigger goals (like writing that 30 page paper) into smaller achievable goals (e.g. do research for paper, read articles, highlight important points to reference, write intro, write body, write conclusion).

Know Where to Go for Help

With online education, there are bound to be technical glitches. One time I finished an exam feeling good about it only to find out I missed about 30% of the questions because the frame froze without me knowing about it. Have the number of your school’s online help desk handy at all times. Also, always write your posts (especially lengthy posts) that you reference or you spend at least 15 minutes on in a word document before you place it on the education platform to post. Otherwise, the education platform may freeze (or something horrible will happen) and you will lose all the work you did. Believe me, it happens.

Online education is rewarding, efficient, less costly than traditional forms of education and learning. However, without the proper skills prior to engaging in online education, it can prove to be very challenging.

Readers, what are your thoughts on online education?

About the Author: Clare is a 20-something who lives in beautiful (but expensive) British Columbia and has been working on her frugal living skills and fighting lifestyle inflation. She works to expand her DIY investment knowledge and hopes to enjoy financial independence one day. She enjoys reading personal finance books, freelance writing, but not so much arithmetic.

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