Edited by Laura Morrison, for GradSchools.com, March 2014
The number of students turning to online education as a means of completing their higher education goals has increased considerably in recent years. For proof of people's rising interest in Web-based learning, you need only look at the data contained in a 2013 report from the Babson Survey Research Group, Pearson and the Sloan Consortium, titled "Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States."
Inside the pages of this report, it was revealed that between fall 2002 and fall 2012, the number of students taking at least one course at a postsecondary institution increased from 1.6 million to 7.1 million. Now, a high number of students may be taking classes over the Internet or pursuing online graduate degrees, but are they learning to the best of their abilities?
The truth is, how and where you learn matters. Use the following information to decide whether your current workstation is ideal for online education, or if it needs a total overhaul.
What type of online learner are you? Do you need peace and quiet to get anything done, or can you concentrate even when there's activity all around you? Taking a closer look at your learning habits is essential to creating the ideal workspace.
If anything but absolute quiet will be too distracting, consider setting up a special place at home just for your online studies. Whether you have roommates or children, establish some rules so they know not to disturb you when it's graduate school time.
When working at home just isn't an option, consider bringing your laptop to a local library. Just make sure there's Internet waiting for you at this location. Coffee shops are also worth a try, but environments of this nature are for those who don't mind the occasional distraction.
The right technology
No ideal work environment is complete without the right equipment. If you haven't used the Internet since the days of dial-up, you're going to want to update your hardware.
Online master's degree programs vary from one school to another, so you're going to want to make sure you know what to expect. Then, you can decide what type of computer will be able to help you get your work done. You may not want to splurge on new technology, but you'll be happy you did when your computer doesn't freeze halfway through the lecture you're watching for class. Having high-speed Internet is also a must, as so many course materials are located on the Web.
While you're stocking up on hardware, consider investing in a few other items that could come in handy over the course of your online studies. For example, if your computer doesn't have a built-in webcam, pick one up if any of your courses feature the occasional video chat between professor and students. Also, think about having a flash drive handy in case you need to transfer your work from one computer to another.
Follow a schedule
You may be an online graduate student, but there's no reason why you can't follow a regular schedule. If you're only working on your studies in your spare time, you're not likely to make much progress. Instead, do your best to set aside a specific portion of the day when you just work.
It can be challenging when you don't have to report to a physical classroom every day, but staying on a schedule will help ensure you graduate on time. Graduate school is a significant investment of your time and money - take it seriously and you're likely to see good results.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.