Location and time are the two biggest limitations students and professors face in the world of education after high school. Availability to coordinate and meet becomes a major issue, especially for the professional trying to juggle school, work and family life. Online education alleviates those issues, by providing flexibility, something that’s critical to balancing the different phases of life.
While the flexibility makes things easier, success in online classrooms is the responsibility of the student. It takes accountability and ownership to make online courses work. Students must take responsibility for their time, in addition to staying organized to make it through their programs the first time around.
Timothy Charleston is set to receive a Master’s in Educational Administration from The University of Scranton next year. He agreed that the flexibility online programs offer can truly create a tailor-made experience that fits into his busy work and family lives.
“Doing an online program, I can fit the needs of the course in based on the time I have. There are deadlines, but other than that no set time for me to work,” Charleston said. "The benefit of doing this is I can spend an hour, or an hour and a half each night and work on things after I get everything else done.”
Hope Grochmall, who earned her Master’s of Educational Administration degree in May, said it’s important for potential online students to remember what they’re getting into.
“Just because it is online, it does not mean it is easier,” Grochmall said. “If you are going to make this work, then you must be organized and use every available moment to work on your course work.”
Knowing what your responsibilities are, when you’ll accomplish them and having a strong support system are three pillars critical to success in the online education realm.
The way to success is different for each student. Making it through an online course will depend largely on what works best for the individual. Master’s of Curriculum and Instruction graduate Rosina Falcone Mitchell said, “Find a program that works for you, one that is flexible, short, but packed with good classes and information.”
Charleston gave some insight into his process when it comes to organization and lining up his responsibilities for online classes. “Before each semester starts, I take a look at the syllabus to look at what the workload will be for this semester. I want to have a clear picture of what I’m up against, how much reading I need to do per week, when are assignments and discussion boards due."
Charleston said that the game plans for his courses are critical to his success.
“The first week of class I try to figure out how best to learn and do all the work I need to do for class,” Charleston said. “I come up with a plan the first week and stick with it. For instance, every Monday and Thursday I’ll read, etc.”
Here are some suggestions all students can implement into their academic regimen to give themselves the best chance of succeeding:
According to Scranton Master’s in Educational Administration student Benjamin Alexander, “It is important that students set a determined amount of time every day to work on Scranton coursework. Having a set time is the best. Organization becomes easier when you print the syllabi and have separate categories for each class.”
Grochmall added that calendars also help keep student timelines in order. “I used a calendar to keep myself organized. I made sure to put everything on this calendar, no matter if it was related to work, school, or personal, it all went on this calendar, so that I could keep up with deadlines and constantly remind myself what was coming up in the near future.”
Sometimes things will get rough in online courses, so it’s important to have an outlet for stress.
“I had several ways of coping when things got tough,” Grochmall said. “I enjoy working out, so when I felt myself wanting to give up, then I would get a group of friends together and attend a boot camp session and spend that time getting myself refocused.”
Charleston pointed to Scranton as a potential support network. He said, “The university has a support system. Academic advisors check in now and then. It’s good to talk to someone in the field. There are online communities for current and past Royals.”
Online courses can be tough. It’ll take discipline, organization and the occasional word of encouragement from your support network to get through them. They offer flexibility, but they still require commitment and follow-through for success. Mitchell said they can be as simple or complicated as you make them. She said success with online courses comes down to organization. “Just be organized and manage your time well,” she said.