We recently asked CalSouthern’s Facebook friends to share their top tips for success in an online degree program. (Our Facebook friends now number more than 1,800—if you haven’t yet become a friend of CalSouthern, please stop by our official Facebook page and friend us today as we push toward 2,000.) We received more than 15 tips from online students and graduates from around the globe. While most of the participants were affiliated with CalSouthern, a variety of other online universities were represented as well.
Many suggestions centered on time-management issues. For example, 2009 CalSouthern PsyD graduate Tyler Co Ong stresses the importance of working ahead (preferably two weeks ahead of the syllabus) to allow for extra time to focus on the more demanding papers and assignments that tend to come due near the end of the course. He also urges students to avail themselves of the CalSouthern Library’s research databases to build a robust e-library that you can utilize in the future—both as a student and as a professional.
Adam Clagg and Marita Lawler also offered scheduling advice, suggesting that students remain plugged into their work by studying on a daily basis, instead of relying on marathon sessions once or twice each week. That way, if life gets in the way and you miss a scheduled study time, you won’t fall too far behind. Marita also urges students to find a way to incorporate your learning into your daily life experiences. This will help the material stick and make it more relevant and meaningful.
Another common theme? Cultivate and rely on relationships as you work toward your degree. Sharon Bowling, Stan Rockwell, and others urge students to communicate with family, friends, and even co-workers and bosses (where appropriate) about your program. Don’t be afraid to seek out their support. Dawn Brewer Ferrara—a 2010 PsyD graduate—Ziad Mazboudi, Jackie Myers, and others encourage you to make an effort to build relationships with your professors (learn about their background and professional interests, ask informed questions, and share with them your educational and professional goals), so that they can better tailor their feedback to your interests, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Finally, Stan, Dawn and others emphasize the importance of making friends with other students in your program, who can be great sources of information and support.
Thanks so much to all participants for their thoughtful and insightful advice! Congratulations, by the way, to Marita. She won an iPod Shuffle that was given away via a random drawing of the names of people who participated in the informal survey. (Just how “random” was the drawing? Check out this video to find out!) If you missed out on this contest, don’t worry—we’ll be conducting similar surveys and drawings on a monthly basis.
Are you interested in more tips for online learning success? Check out this interview with Dr. Lewis Sanborne, who has consulted with online and traditional institutions for more than 20 years, helping them enhance student retention, satisfaction, and success. You’ll be interested in what he has to say.
You may also be interested in the two-part series titled The Realities of Online Education. In it, successful students and outstanding faculty discuss keys to online learning success, ways to maximize the student-faculty relationship, misconceptions about online learning, in addition to other issues facing online higher education. We think you’ll find these articles well worth your time.
Do you have additional tips for succeeding in the online education environment or insight into other issues impacting online students? If so, we encourage you to add your comments to this article. Or, email CalSouthern’s Editor of University Publications Tom Dellner if you’re interested in participating in future editorial features.
We’d love to hear from you!