Twenty years ago I went to an actual brick and mortar college when I was studying Nursing. After my first semester I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa after receiving:
Anatomy & Physiology I – A
Medical Office Procedures Administrative- A
Medical Terminology- A
English Comp- A
Medical Law and Ethics- B
My first college semester! It was pretty awesome, and that was before Google, Wikipedia, and the internet. Then some really bad crap happened in my life and I had to drop out the following semester; I had a few more kids and took a 20 year detour to stay at home and raise them. No regrets! But four years ago, when I decided to return to school, I still wanted the liberty to get an education while remaining at home with my teens. I didn’t want to be a career mom while they were toddlers, and so I carefully planned exactly when I did want to return to school. My children were all 13 and older so I felt that was just about the right time to head back to college.
Rather than return to a brick and mortar college, I researched distance education so I could work from home. Today, it’s standard for universities to offer hybrid classes (brick and mortar and distance ed, mixed) or brick and mortar and distance ed. courses separately. Four years ago it wasn’t as common as it is today even; it was still in its infancy, particularly here in Indiana. I had been a dedicated, top student in Nursing, and knew I had what it takes to have the same dedication as an online student. (I was’t wrong, having just graduated Sum Laude from Vincennes University: Behavioral Sciences + CPC in Substance Abuse.)
Distance education isn’t for everybody, however. If you lack focus, drive, dedication, commitment, and patience, you may want to consider going to a brick and mortar. Not that that will be much easier; you have to have all of these things anyway if you want to excel in college. Numerous people stumble upon my blog daily based on keyword searches alone, so this particular post is for inquisitive people who will be researching distance ed. Here are a few things you should know before getting started, and I hope to dispel any myths one has about distance ed.:
- Distance Ed/Online college is not easier than brick and mortar schools
I’ve done both, it can actually be much more challenging.
- The books, syllabi, rubrics, course outlines, expectations, rules, regulations, policies, deadlines, and other course materials are identical to what you receive in brick and mortar colleges. (And if they’re not, don’t go to that college!) There’s no “special treatment” just because you get to take tests in your jammies. (Although I must say, that’s a nice perk.)
- Did I mention you get to take your tests in your jammies?
(Apart from the ones that are proctored, and there are actually quite a few.)
- Google helps, but not really.
Instructors devise clever methods to keep students from Googling during unproctored exams. One of the more frequent ones at my university is allowing 60 minutes for a 50 question exam. And that’s a Microeconomics test! Not an easy course. It makes for very difficult standards, but a smart tactic. Some professors will allow open book exams, but when you have only 60 minutes for 50 “paragraphed” multiple choice questions that are four and five lines long (and that’s just the question), there’s no room for error, or, “mind-stuttering” for that matter. Daydreamers beware, this is like academic NASCAR.
- The stress can be incredible.
Procrastinating is not a good idea. It’s an enticing thought when your assignment is approaching and there are still several days remaining, but you can really feel the hangman’s noose tightening around your greedy little throat as the deadline rushes upon you. Better to pay your academic dues early: the interest is far too expensive, and believe me, you pay in stress.
Here are a few of my personal tips on succeeding in Distance Ed:
- If you want to be an A/B student- kiss the next four months of your life goodbye.
- Never settle for C’s! Never. Never ever ever. (“Settle” being the key word.)
- Work hard and go the extra mile.
Your professors know who’s lazy and who’s not by the paper you write. You can BS your way through only so much, and then they’re onto you! Take the time to show them that you give a damn. Write a stellar paper! If they say 3-5 pages, make it 5- don’t be lazy.
- Follow the 20 formal writing rules (always) when writing an academic paper. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you can go here.
- Never write an academic paper based on “opinion”. Gather facts and write about facts only. Unless you’re writing a personal essay or other form of first person paper, you should never deviate from this.
- Develop a routine and stick to it.
- Don’t make excuses for academic failure! Learn from the negatives. Study, revise, regroup, move it around, strategize and get back in the ring. Failure is only failure if you give up.
- Be communicable with your professors.
An open line of communication is KEY for academic success.
- Take criticism. Criticism usually hurts because it’s tinged with truth. Be thankful somebody took the time.
- Take vitamins, get proper sleep (no all-night cramming sessions- be prepared instead), exercise regularly, step away from the machine- take a walk- look at trees, clouds, breathe deeply, etc.
- Get off of Facebook! Facebook + good grades don’t coexist harmoniously. One will suffer, the other will benefit. (Make wise choices.)
- Make a “school folder” and keep it on your desktop. Within that folder, create individual class folders, and in those folders, download each class syllabus, course outline, instructor’s email along with email instructions (not every instructor has the same preferences), assignments, deadlines, and special instructions for that particular course. Staying organized can be the difference between being an “A student” vs. a “C student”.
- Submit work early. Words are cheap, and lip service and excuses have no place in the classroom. If you want to show your professor that you care, submit your work early. Nothing says “I care” more than staying on top of your game!
These pointers aren’t only applicable for school but in every area of life.
Oh, and never send your professor an email with a smiley face included! (Keep it brief, professional, and to the point. They’re incredibly busy.)
I hope this helps (whoever you are).