Written by Ann van der Merwe for GradSchools.com - November 2013
Many online graduate programs make it possible to learn at any time of day. Students may often be able to view lectures, read materials, and interact with their fellow students and professors at their convenience, without even leaving home. With this flexibility comes a major challenge. It is all too easy to get behind. Here are some tips to help you stay on track in your online graduate program.
Get Off to a Good Start in Your Online Graduate Program
Use the first two weeks of the online graduate program wisely. During that time, figure out approximately how much time it will take you to complete the assignments and how best to fit that into your schedule. Try to find times when you are available and when you feel alert and ready to work. If you do this, you will probably feel more motivated to do what needs to be done. And, you may even finish the work more efficiently than if you try to squeeze your assignments into times of day when you are stressed, exhausted, or distracted.
Also, be sure to read your syllabus thoroughly at the very beginning of the course. This will alert you to any times when the workload will be heavier than usual so you can prepare accordingly. For example, you will probably need to set aside some extra study time in the week prior to an exam or just before the due date for a major project.
Practice Self-Discipline to Complete Your Online Coursework on Time
Once you have determined the best times for you to do your coursework, use them regularly. You might find it helpful to think of them as class time. The time required to complete the modules and assignments of your online graduate course is, after all, usually considered equivalent of both classroom hours and study hours in an online learning environment. So, you need to devote the same level of commitment to these tasks as you would if you were attending class in person.
Also, set some goals and deadlines for yourself, independent of what the instructor has provided. These can be general or specific. You might, for instance, resolve to do some extra reading related to a topic covered in the course, or spend some additional time in an online forum interacting with your fellow students. Or, you might simply want to complete selected assignments a day or two ahead of their due dates so that you can revisit them before you have to submit them.
Keep in Touch With Your Instructor and Your Classmates in Your Online Graduate Program
Online courses are now offering more and more opportunities for students to connect with each other and their instructors, including live online chats and virtual office hours. Making use of these technologies will keep you from feeling isolated and, by extension, help you remain engaged with the course. So, be sure to communicate frequently, just as you would if you were in a traditional classroom.
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About the Author: Ann van der Merwe is a singer and music historian based in Southwest Ohio. She holds a B.M. in Music Performance and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in music history.