Study at desk

A Guide for Completing Your Online Degree

Whether you’re partway through your online studies or you are thinking of enrolling on a brand-new online course, a guide on how and why to study online will stand you in good stead going forward. 

From over 4,700 colleges and universities across the United States, more than 6.3 million students took at least one online course in the fall of 2016, a number which has perpetually been growing. Joining these millions of online students could seem daunting if you’re used to traditional study methods only, but there are more benefits to online learning than you might think, and it could just be the solution you’re looking for.

Why study online?

If you’re looking into further study, you might wonder why you shouldn’t just go for the traditional method: enrolling at a college or university and turning up, physically, on your first day. While traditional study still holds its place in the learning sphere, online learning provides you with far greater flexibility and versatility. It opens up higher education to a more significant number of prospective students. This is, mainly, due to not having to relocate for study and being able to work online degrees and diplomas around pre-existing life and work commitments. Studying online, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, could be the new normal.

The benefits of online study

Online study is a fantastic way to take your career or profession to the next level. For example, a Family Nurse Practitioner wanting to improve their job prospects and increase their salary could look into finding an online MSN FNP program to become a Master of Science in Nursing.

It is a flexible and useful way of learning. It means you are no longer limited to universities in your area, meaning you save on travel or moving costs and, depending on the course, you can often work them around your life or career. With online study, you will often get more one-on-one tutoring, making it a more personalized experience.

Studying online is also perfect for those who struggle in large groups or classrooms. Those with anxiety may feel less confident raising their hand to ask a question, and so anonymous chat functions or one-on-one tutoring removes that issue. For those with hearing or visual impairments, traditional learning can often be disproportionately challenging to keep up with if the professor or lecturer has not made their class appropriate for such students. With the rich well of online resources available, smaller class sizes, and more time to tailor lectures, those with impairments could benefit from online learning.

Overall, the attraction of learning from home is obvious. Comfort, adaptability and versatility are key.

The difficulties with online study

It shouldn’t be ignored, of course, that there are some detractions to online study, though they are outweighed by the benefits and, obviously, there are two sides to every coin and traditional study has its negatives too. It doesn’t do well to dwell on these downsides for too long, but you should be aware of them.

Without the physical aspect of the university, it could be that you are missing out on the “normal” university experience of meeting new people, making new friends, going to parties and all the other exciting activities you see in the films and in prospectuses. However, online courses work hard to create a bond between students and teaching staff, and as they are often designed to fit around your existing life, they should actually do better for your social life than worse. 

Another criticism of online learning has been that it is less personal, without a tutor’s office to go to for help or the emotional and moral support provided by teaching staff on campus. Again, while some may find this, it is also true that online courses try extremely hard to ensure this is not the case. A support network is in place, just like on traditional courses, and through email and video link, your tutors are actually more available to you than usual. 

There are pros and cons to every higher education course. Online platforms likely draw more criticism simply because they are newer and less familiar to us. 

Types of online degree

Online studies offer a similar array of degrees that traditional study does. Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees are all available to study online, full-time, or part-time, from the comfort of your own home. 

As previously mentioned, studying online for higher education is a less familiar but growing form of learning. As it – and acceptance of it – grows, more and more options will be available to prospective students. The higher up you go, from Associate to Doctorate, the higher your job prospects, expected salary and opportunities will be. 

How to be successful in studying online

There are a few key actions and attitudes to remember when successfully completing an online degree:

  • Be disciplined
  • Be flexible
  • Work hard
  • Limit distractions
  • Take breaks

There are many others, such as making sure you connect with your other online classmates, making an online study group if possible and ensuring you have excellent time management, but these five are essential. 

When completing your online degree, you should be disciplined – try and treat it like a job. Set yourself studying hours, as if they were work hours, and limit the distractions in your place of study. If you find it difficult not to procrastinate in your own home, try studying in a local library or café. Turn off notifications for your social media and let those close to you know that you have essential studying to be doing, so they message and call you less.

You must also be flexible: working the study around other parts of your life, studying in different places and making sure you don’t get too downbeat if you suffer setbacks or struggle to understand something the first time. Work hard, but don’t exhaust yourself, especially if you are working a job or looking after a family alongside your studies. Always remember to take breaks – going for walks to stretch your legs and resting your eyes especially. Looking at a computer screen for long periods can strain your eyes, so remember the 20-20-20 rule: after ever 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you can, take ten minutes away from the screen entirely after every hour. 

Who to go to for help

The support network built up by online universities and colleges are superb, and you should be in no doubt who to go to for help. Your tutors are professionals at dealing with worried students, stressed, or getting left behind, so don’t be concerned about going to them for advice.

Contacting your other course mates is also an excellent way to build support for yourself, as is asking around your friends and family to see if any of them have completed online degrees or training courses. If it is more your mental or physical health you are concerned about, rather than particular course matters, much higher education institutions offer student support services that specialize in helping you stay mentally strong and physically healthy throughout your course.

Working around your online degree

One of the significant benefits of studying online is being able to work around it, earning money and supporting yourself and even your family while earning a higher education qualification. You can do bits of work on your lunch break or on your commute, provided you have an internet connection. Students often work busy and long-hour jobs around traditional, on-campus degrees, so with the increased flexibility of an online course, there is nothing to worry about if you are concerned you’re going to have to continue earning while studying.

In fact, it is sometimes those who are choosing to work alongside their studies that are the most conscientious, diligent students. They manage their time well and get work submitted comfortably before deadlines. 

Mixing online and traditional study

Online study is the future and will quite probably be the new normal. However, it is still essential to combine online study with more traditional methods. Working in libraries, gathering primary resources and research and working in a team will never go out of fashion. It is finding the balance that is the key to being a successful student.

Studying online should not be as daunting as it might seem to the unfamiliar eye. Many learning techniques remain the same, and as a student, you will still receive the support, resources, and community that you would on a usual course – some would say you get even more. Remembering to remain calm while working hard and disciplining yourself with time away from distractions while taking breaks are the balances that must be found when getting through your course. 

Your tutors and the university or college’s support networks are there to help you and should be used when necessary. Be organized, have fun, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. This is your degree – own it.