According to Bill Gates, the best education in five years will be on the Internet, so now’s the time to get a head start on knowing some success tips for online learning. Chances are, that if you attend university or college, you have already taken an e-course or two. It won’t be too long until your entire program will be delivered in an online format. Here are some strategies to improve your learning through the Internet.

The right equipment

Be sure you have the right equipment. You’ll need a lap top with wireless capabilities. Whether you’re logging in at the college or in a cafe, the beauty of online learning is that you can do it anywhere, any time. Be sure, too, your laptop has both a lot of RAM and a high-speed chip to accommodate multi-media. Although most higher education courses are text-based, increasingly, online learning is incorporating multimedia tools such as webinars and audio and video conferencing. So, be sure your computer can handle the requirements. When I took my masters degree online (part-time), I found my brand new desktop was almost obsolete three years after I bought it and bought a new laptop in the final year of the program.

Adjust your study habits

Understand that you will doing more work in an online course than in a classroom course. You will need to shift your learning strategy to a more proactive, self-directed mode. In the classroom, the instructor can deliver some of the information and create group activities, so you learn onsite. But, in the electronic classroom, you’re on your own. It is less structured. You’ll have to become your own teacher to some extent. You’ll have to make sure you follow the course guidelines on the web, participate in forums, do assignments without an instructor cracking the whip or your best buddy sitting by. Many students in their first online course quickly fall behind because it is easy to put off the tasks in an online course. The course is just sitting there on the computer, isn’t it? It’s easy to think the learning will “somehow” just happen.

Time management

You will have to be vigilant with your time and ensure you participate in all the activities regularly. A good strategy is to schedule set times to work on your online course as you would going to a classroom course. When I did my graduate studies, it was difficult to participate in the course every day. My teaching schedule was heavy for the first three days of the week. But for the rest of the week, I was able to participate without a problem. That’s the beauty of online learning– you can schedule it around your own time table. But watch out for the temptation to put the online course at the bottom of your priority list, since it is not immediate and “in your face.”

Practicing netiquette

Understand that you’re in an academic environment. When you’re participating in an online discussion (you will find them to be quite common in your e-courses), be sure that the level of language you use is a little more formal than in the chat room. Avoid chat room lingo and acronyms. Your professors and classmates will appreciate it.

Communicate

Communication bridges the isolation gap that sometimes occurs in an online course. You have many opportunities to create different interactions. Don’t be shy to send an email to your professor or tutor if you have a specific question. When I teach an online course, I usually hear from everyone in the class at some point, and I always answer student questions. That’s what we’re here for.

Communicating privately with the professor or tutor will enhance your learning. Be sure also to respond to your fellow students in the discussion forums. That’s where the real learning occurs. You will find that your our fellow classmates also become your teachers and you become theirs as all course members share their observations, resources and experiences. Experts call this constructivist learning, and it is a very powerful form of pedagogy. Also, many online course have a “cafe” forum for a more free discussion other than the structured academic discourses on the other forums. Your fellow students become your teachers and you become theirs.

Online learning is a rich learning experience, but requires some adapting initially. Following these suggestions will help you be successful in the electronic classroom.

Photo: Kaitlyn Baker via Unsplash

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