The Insiders’ Perspective

Aug 28, 2013 by Tom Dellner

Success Tips from CalSouthern Staff (Who Are Also CalSouthern Learners)

At CalSouthern, the staff prides itself on being attuned to our learners’ needs and sensitive to the challenges they face as adult students. One of the reasons we’re able to do this effectively is that many members of our staff are CalSouthern learners themselves. At any time, you’re likely to find CalSouthern staff taking courses at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral level.

Although our staffers are doing the same assignments, using the same learning platform as the rest of our learners, they do have a unique perspective that may be advantageous: as they work with CalSouthern learners on a day-to-day basis, they become intimately familiar with the challenges they face—and how they successfully overcome them. Our staff also is acutely aware of all the resources we can provide our students to help them succeed.

We want you to gain from this perspective, too. So we polled two CalSouthern staffers—School of Business Academic Advisor Amber Artiaga and Military Programs Administrator/School Certifying Official Brett O’Rourke—who are also successful CalSouthern learners for their best online learning success tips…from an insider’s perspective.


Create a Schedule and Stay on Track

The 100-percent online format is wonderfully flexible and oftentimes essential for busy, working professionals. But with the self-paced format and suggested due dates instead of the traditional hard-and-fast deadlines, it can become tempting to put off assignments, thinking you’ll “get to them later.” This behavior tends to compound; suddenly you can find yourself so far behind you can’t catch up. By staying on pace, you give yourself some margin for error so that, if an emergency comes up and you miss a few study sessions, you can always catch up. And if you do stay on schedule all the way through, you’ll more easily be able to devote extra time to the more involved assignments that often come toward the end of the course.

So get into a study routine and set aside specific dates and times to study. It’s also very helpful to do your studying in a quiet place where you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Many learners find it beneficial to reserve a cubicle in the local library.


Review the Week’s Assignments Before Reading Designated Chapters

This allows you to get an idea of what to focus on while you are reading. All of the material you read is important, of course, but knowing what’s required for your assignments when you begin reading will help you when it comes time to sit down and tackle the assignments themselves. It also allows you to organize your notes or gather resources while you read instead of having to go back and find that information later. Making things easier on yourself will save you time and stress—a huge benefit over the long haul.


Treat Your Academic Advisor as the Resources They Are

When you get stuck, don’t pull your hair out thinking that you are alone, left to figure everything out by yourself. The personal touch at CalSouthern doesn’t begin and end with your enrollment advisor. Amber and Brett relied on their academic advisors to help them with formatting issues on their assignments, to help them find useful articles and other helpful resources for writing papers and even to remember how and when to request their next courses. Even though you are in a 100-percent online program, you have a team of professionals that would like nothing more than to help you. All you have to do is ask. Balancing your coursework with your professional and personal lives is bound to create some stress. Let us eliminate as much of that stress for you as possible.


Develop Learner-to-Learner Connections

It helps when you have someone to bounce ideas off of. We don’t mean share answers, but rather share ideas and get feedback from someone who is going through what you’re going through. Learners frequently tell us that developing these relationships helps them stay accountable and on track, and they appreciate having a peer who can provide occasional constructive criticism when you need it.


Take a Sneak Peek

When you enroll in a new course, even if you enroll early, you gain access to your course syllabus. This is where you’ll find information about your books and assignments. Not only will this help you begin to set a study schedule for the course, you can also get your books early and start working on the assignments ahead of time. When the course officially opens, you can upload the assignments you were able to complete early. This will obviously save you some time during the course and could lead to you finishing your course early.


Got a Long Paper Coming Due? Break it Up!

When writing larger papers, you might find it helpful to create an outline and divide the assignment into sections. Many students find it far easier to write a one- or two-page section every day or two throughout the week than to schedule one stressful, writer’s-block-inducing marathon session on the weekend. You might even find that you’re able to shorten your weekend study time enough to re-introduce yourself to your family and friends!


Take Advantage of APA Formatting Resources

Using APA formatting software like Reference Point can potentially save you hours on your  assignments—the software handles the time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating, task of APA formatting for you. If you choose not to use these tools, at least ask your academic advisor to show you how to use a Microsoft Word template for your essays, case studies and journal articles. Within Microsoft Word, there is a function typically found under “references” that allows you to more easily insert citations and properly format the bibliography on your reference page.

The resource you choose isn’t important, but finding a formatting tool that works for you will result in significant time savings.


Need More Help? Consult Your Textbook

When you are researching topics for assignments, one of the best places to begin your search for additional resources is the bibliography in your textbook. Take advantage of the many references cited in your materials and make your search for outside references a little easier.


Books and Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime provides students with benefits such as complimentary two-day shipping for six months, as well as additional savings on books and other Amazon products. Let’s face it, everyone wants to save money where they can. Plus, the two-day shipping will come in handy when your course is starting in a week and you haven’t gotten around to buying your books yet. It happens!

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