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You’re a busy person - -

You work 9-5, have a household to run, and on top of that you have class once a week (or more).

The kids need to be fed, the dog walked, laundry laundered, and on top of all of that homework to be completed (and on time!).

It can be difficult to set aside time specifically for assignments, and can be even more challenging to find uninterrupted time to complete your classwork.

The good news - - you are not alone! While a traditional student in an on-ground class gets to know his or her fellow classmates and instructor by sharing personal interactions on a regular basis, the online student often ‘attends class’ independently of the instructor or other students. Online students most often will complete course activities at a day and time most convenient to their schedule.

Online students must be independent learners, and feel comfortable in a learning environment that places emphasis on individuals taking responsibility for their learning process. While the online classroom includes interactions between the student and instructor, they often times are not immediate as in a traditional on-ground classroom. Although online instructors answer questions and provide clarification of information to students as they would in the traditional classroom, students must be comfortable waiting for a response to their emails.

So what does it take to be a successful online adult learner?

Develop a routine and let your family know about it - -

Successful online students must be self-disciplined and goal-oriented as they work to complete their weekly assignments, post email messages, and work with classmates in their online class (if applicable). Make a weekly schedule that includes school-based goals for the week. Set aside time specifically for studying and post the schedule for all to see.

Your schedule should be an expectation, ensuring your family and friends respect your need for study time. This will be helpful in deterring stress, and making sure you don’t over-schedule yourself.

Take responsibility for the learning process - -

Successful online students understand that their instructors are facilitators of their learning process and that the individual student must be a dedicated and goal-oriented self-starter. Online students are motivated and goal-oriented. They put their schoolwork at the top of their list of priorities.

Successful online students are not afraid to ask questions; however, they ask for clarification after they have attempted to understand the material on their own by re-reading the textbook, the instructions, or lecture.

Make a list - -

To-do lists allow you to prioritize and organize your work. You can incorporate household tasks into your list, or separate household items from school items. Update the list as often as possible so you don’t have to worry about forgetting an assignment that somehow slipped your mind.

Incorporate your family - -

When possible, let your kids or spouse help you study. There’s nothing that says you have to do this alone, so use your resources and family bond to make learning fun. You will get the help you need and your family will feel more involved.

Find uninterrupted study time - -

Whether you need to wake up 15 minutes before the kids or use some of your lunch break for studying, uninterrupted study time will allow you to work the most efficiently. Be creative. Find pockets of time throughout the day and use them to their full potential.

Use a consistent study area - -

While it may be difficult to find a perfect study area, make sure you have room to stay organized. Don’t just pile your papers and books on your bed; find a table and spread out. Develop a comfortable, well-lit space where you know you can get things done.

Establish a good rapport with your instructors / professors - -

Communicate with them regularly, and don’t be afraid to ask for additional instruction if needed. The key is to keep the lines of communication open.

Reward You!

Rewards aren’t just for kids. When you’ve completed a big assignment or worked hard for a period of time, take a break or plan a movie night with friends. Let rewards keep you motivated, and prevent you from burning out.

Form a Study Group - -

If you need help sticking to a schedule or find working in groups to be more advantageous, don’t be afraid to reach out to other students in your class. Forming a study group with fellow students could not only improve your grades, but can also build an in-school social support for you with others that can relate to the stress of exams and papers.

Stay motivated - -

As an adult student, you have a much better understanding of what motivates you. Use this wisdom and keep the motivation high as you study. Remember the goals you set out in the beginning and don’t be afraid to refer to them when you’re feeling unmotivated. Maybe you want to help your family, or get a higher paying job. No matter what the motivation, remember you have committed time and money for a reason. Don’t let it go to waste. 

Not easily frustrated - -

Students in an online class sometimes are faced with obstacles that are out of their control: computers can break, ISP servers can crash, and electric power can go out. A successful online student identifies solutions for unexpected calamities by thinking ahead about solutions to potential problems.

If you run into computer problems, you could possibly use a friend or relative’s computer, or access a computer at a local library. Remember to save online classroom work to an external flash drive or other device so that you don’t lose work if your hard drive crashes.

Remember netiquette - -

Successful online students exhibit respect for the classroom environment and remember their "manners" when communicating to their fellow classmates and to their instructor. They understand that taking out their anger and / or frustration on their classmates and their instructor is not proper "netiquette" any more than it would be in a traditional classroom.