Here’s What Experts Recommend You Do to Thrive in Online Classes
The flexibility and freedom of online study is a big draw for military spouses who find themselves uprooting every couple of years to follow the call of duty. It’s a great way to continue your education no matter where the military sends you, but it takes a lot of self-discipline and dedication to complete your degree.
“You have to put the same level of effort and maybe a little more effort into an online course (compared to a traditional class),” said Joan Rooney, vice president for instruction for Tutor.com. “The onus is definitely on the student to be motivated and self-disciplined.”
So as you gear up for another semester, Rooney recommends you set yourself up for success with some preparation and research. Be sure you’ve completed the course requirements and have the background knowledge the class description recommends. Read course reviews to see what other students have to say about the class so you have an idea of what to expect. And be sure you can truly commit to the class and the level of work it requires, Rooney said.
“I think you clearly have to be organized about your time,” Rooney said. “I would definitely put that right on my schedule.”
Treat your online study as if you were attending a brick-and-mortar classroom, said Joseph Chang, Iraq War Army veteran and Military & Veterans Program Manager for Professional Tutors of America, Inc.
“The suggestion is to treat it like a traditional school,” Chang said. “Set aside a certain time of the day so you can have the consistency and the routine and make a habit ... That type of routine will make them not even think about it or struggle with different choices.”
You also want to take the time to test-drive any new devices or programs before the class starts, Rooney said.
“One of the biggest pitfalls with online courses can be the use of technology,” she said. “I think you want to try and test out that technology ahead of time to make sure you understand how it works, the tech support, if you’re having tech problems who you’re supposed to contact, what’s the procedure, (etc.).”
Having a support system in place also is key for thriving in online academia, experts said.
Both Tutor.comand ProfessionalTutors.comoffer services to help military families succeed. Widows of service members killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can receive free tutoring from ProfessionalTutors.com, a veteran-owned company. Discounts are available for other members of the military community, Chang said.
Tutor.com for U.S. Military Familiesis funded by the Department of Defense, so online tutoring is available at no cost to students K-12 in eligible military families. Some spouses and service members, including part-time National Guard and Reserve families also are eligible for the program, said Pamela Brehm, director of Outreach, Tutor.com Military & Federal Programs.
“Our service is like a safety net for (military families),” Brehm said. “We help continue their education by providing another kind of continuity.”
Chang and Rooney recommend building relationships with fellow students so you have a study group or cohort to turn to as you work your way through the class.
“One of the things about online classes is they can be isolating,” Rooney said. “I think you have to really think about what are some ways I can anticipate what the drawbacks will be ahead of time and what kind of support can I build in for myself to make sure I’m going to be successful.”
A critical part of that support network is your family, Chang said.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of adult learners where they make it seem like it’s their own battle or their own task, but it’s really for the entire family,” Chang said. “It’s a family effort, a family mission for her to graduate and get a degree and advance in her career.”