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10 Commandments of Successful Online Learning

posted by Mark on November 14th, 2008

successful online learningPassing an online class can be as challenging as passing a kidney stone. Thankfully, it’s more rewarding in the long run. With these 10 marginally holy tips, you can plan for the unique challenges of distance learning and ensure that your online education is as painless a process as possible.

  1. Thou shalt find a proper work environment. Are you using a public computer in a crowded, noisy location? If so, try to find a more controllable environment. Is your Yorkshire Terrier constantly whining for you to play? If so, get a cat.
  2. Thou shalt have a reliable computer. Does your PC run on steam? Does your Internet connection go out when you sneeze? Have a backup plan in case disaster strikes. Also make sure your computer meets any software or other requirements that the class has — electricity, for instance.
  3. Thou shalt participate. Being at home with a mouthful of Pop Tarts doesn’t excuse you from taking an active role. Online courses frequently involve chat sessions that allow you to clarify issues you don’t understand and to make an impression on your fellow students and your teacher — you know, the person who grades you.
  4. Thou shalt not surf. Being online, it’s tempting to quickly check your stocks or the football score or download Season 4 of The Love Boat, but don’t allow your online study time to be derailed by non-school surfing. Save that for when you’re at work.
  5. Thou shalt be wary of iTunes. Keep your music at a moderate “background noise” level to avoid drifting off into a rock ‘n roll fantasy world of feathered hair and Lycra.
  6. Thou shalt take breaks. If you find yourself sitting in front of the computer for more than an hour at a time, stretch and walk around to refresh your mind and body. Avoid lying down, or you may never get up again.
  7. Thou shalt manage your time. Your time is valuable; otherwise, you wouldn’t be taking classes online. Without the forced discipline of a real-world classroom setting, it’s easy to fall into the trap of procrastination. Plan your study, research and discussion time — both online and off. This might mean cutting into your ferret sweater crocheting time, but sacrifices must be made for an education.
  8. Thou shalt connect with classmates. Form online study groups or quiz one another through instant messaging or chat sessions. If you live close enough to someone from class, you can even meet in person — or use two tin cans on a string. I’ve always wanted to see if that works.
  9. Thou shalt use your school’s resources. Even if the school is online only, it may very well have resources like tutorial services or a virtual library. Just look out for the virtual librarian who shoots you dirty looks when you smack your gum.
  10. Thou shalt focus. Learning online requires a high level of reading comprehension. First, learn to read. Then, figure out your most productive time of day — when your mind is sharpest — and use that time to study. Concentrate on understanding the concepts behind what you’re reading before moving on to memorizing particular facts. Keep a calendar of assignment due dates, tests, etc., so that you stay focused on the big picture. (Note: the big picture is not the Mona Lisa, but good guess.)
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