Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Nancy Lee Sánchez, executive director of Kaplan Educational Foundation.
When some people hear the words “online school,” they get a bit worried, but let’s face it: you can do anything online these days, including getting a top-notch bachelor’s degree.
Nowadays, the real question for anyone considering their next educational step isn’t, “Can I get a good degree online?” but rather, “Is online education a good fit for my strengths and weaknesses as a student?”
To help you answer that question, we at the Kaplan Educational Foundation have put together some guidelines to think about as you evaluate yourself as an online student. Taken from Your 2019 Guide to College Transfer, I hope they help you understand how top colleges in the country are looking for talented students like you to transfer into their online bachelor’s degree programs.
One note: there’s a significant difference between (1) taking some of your classes online while attending most of your classes in person and (2) pursuing an online bachelor’s degree program. Here, we’ll be discussing pursuing your bachelor’s degree completely online. So without further ado, here are some top considerations for potential online students.
Sharp time management skills are extremely important: Many students choose to go to school online because they have such strong demands on their time already, so it’s essential to your success that you have the time management skills to plan out when you’ll do your assignments, as well as any fieldwork or real-world applications of your learning.
Building a daily schedule with short- and long-term goals is important, since uncertainty can impact the motivation and confidence you’ll need to be a great online student. Use any and all tools available to you, whether provided by your school or set up on your own (like Google Calendar alerts) to stay on track.
A good place to study is key: Since you’re not attending classes on campus, you’re going to need to find an appropriate place to focus. Wherever you choose to log on, it should be a place where you can fully focus on what you’re learning.
Although many people picture online students studying at a cafe or airport or even outdoors, we recommend you set up a dedicated space, like a home office or other quiet area, that you can rely on.
Reliable and accessible technology will make your life much easier: Everyone knows how frustrating tech issues can be. In order to participate in class, do research, complete coursework, collaborate with students and faculty, and submit your work, you need a working laptop, working phone, and any software required to meet the specifications of your program. Unreliable technology will complicate your studies and affect your motivation.
Developing your communication skills for an online environment is critical to your success: For online courses, it’s in some ways even more important to be able to communicate with people than it would be if you were studying on campus, as you’ll be coordinating with your professors, fellow students, and school administrators without the benefit of face-to-face conversations and body language.
- Understand that the backgrounds of students in your class may vary widely, with students from all over the nation and in some cases the globe. Being sensitive to these differences will help you work together.
- You often won’t be able to see others’ facial and body language, and they won’t be able to see yours. Jokes, irony, sarcasm, and other ways of communicating can be “lost in translation,” so make sure you’re clear with anyone you interact with online, and give them the opportunity to clear up any confusion on either end.
- Don’t become too casual. An online classroom is not a typical chat room. Remember, whatever you do online stays online.
- Responding to communications in a timely manner will demonstrate that you are a responsible student and will help you stay ahead of your tasks.
Self-motivation is your responsibility (but don’t be afraid to ask for help): In-person education constantly engages all of your senses and commonly provides frequent reminders to study, do your coursework, and reach out to people who can help you. Online education, on the other hand, requires you to be self-motivated enough to succeed without many of the reminders and resources present in the physical world.
- Any good online school will provide you with check-ins, reminders, and other opportunities to stay engaged. Take advantage of everything offered in class, your advisors, and any extracurriculars available to keep your motivation up.
- In life, no accomplishment is achieved alone, and sometimes self-motivation just isn’t enough. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and you should never wait until you’re in “emergency mode” to seek the help you need.
At the end of the day, online education isn’t for everyone. But if you’re the kind of student who would work well in an environment as outlined above, remember that Phi Theta Kappa members are exactly the kinds of students that selective online programs are looking for.
For much more on all of these considerations, as well as info on getting your bachelor’s degree online (or offline) as a transfer student, including how to pick the best school for you, how to expand your leadership profile, and profiles of bachelor’s programs (including the Top 10 Online Bachelor’s Programs as ranked by US News), check out Your 2019 Guide to College Transfer.
It’s time to leave old ways of thinking in the past. If an online bachelor’s program is right for you, keep the information above in mind and dive in!