Here is some inspiration, along with some study tips, to help you successfully grow your education.
As a mother of three, a full-time employee and the pursuer of a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Rebecca Merino learned to maintain harmony in her life by placing an artful twist on work-life balance.
After a full day of working with clients at the BC Pension Corporation, chauffeuring her children to sports practice and other activities, at home Merino turns her attention to the study of business and management principles.
“People often ask me why I take all these courses on top of everything else I do,” she explained. “But for me, learning new things and improving my education is something I do for me.”
While many would place schoolwork firmly on the work side of the equation, Merino interprets completing courses, which she is taking through online studies offered by Thompson Rivers University, Open Learning (TRU-OL), as taking time for herself.
This is an invaluable attitude to have. However, Merino acknowledged that even with a positive mindset it has not always been a smooth journey. “I am notorious for thinking I have more time to do things than I actually do,” she said.
In life, however, there is almost always time for education where online and distance studies are concerned as you can enrol anytime and study when and where you want. Merino, for example, returned to her post-secondary studies after a 15-year hiatus from formal education.
“I completed a business administration (accounting) diploma at Camosun College straight out of high school and intended to continue in the CGA (Certified General Accountant) program,” she said. But first came marriage, followed by three children. It wasn’t until 2009, with her children growing more independent, that she was able to enrol in an Open Learning course.
Even the best plans occasionally have to be modified. Merino was in the middle of a course when her youngest son became seriously ill and had to be hospitalized. He is now fully recovered, but Merino had to put her coursework aside for an extended period, which could have led to negative repercussions on her transcript in a traditional educational environment.
“I was able to take an extension, but if I had been enrolled at a traditional university, I would have failed the course,” she said. “I simply could not do what I am able to do without Open Learning.”
While the flexibility inherent through Open Learning does make education more feasible for those with a demanding and busy life, it is important to note that online studies require students to be independent in the learning process as it is up to the student alone to engage in, prioritize and complete their lectures, studies and projects. For mature learners, balance – achieved by the juggling of work, family and education, while still finding time to enjoy life – may be the single most difficult exercise to master.
Here are some useful tips that can help make any experience with online learning a positive one.
Tip #1: Avoid Distractions
When working on class material leave the TV and other Internet browser windows off. Be cautious of distractions that surround you while completing coursework (even that yummy bag of chips you are munching on) as they are designed to fight for your attention whether they are in your peripheral view or sitting directly in front of you. TV, Internet browsing and social media should be used as a reward for completing designated course tasks and assignments.
Tip #2: Work Your Communication Skills
While as an online student you do not have to be physically present to take and complete a course, it is important to note that you may be sacrificing communication for innovation and convenience. Because you are not physically present in a class setting, it may be harder and more important for you to maintain a good, communicative relationship with your peers and course instructor. You should use multiple methods to maintain your communication including email, message boards and phone calls. Be sure to discuss your expectations for the course and assignments and take the time to clear up any questions you may have.
Tip #3: Review, Review, Review
The principles behind home assignments are very similar for online courses and traditional campus-based courses. As an online student you must ensure that you have fully read and understood material and assignment requirements before submitting items to your instructor or taking a test or final exam. Materials such as lectures and assignments should be reviewed multiple times to ensure you catch smaller concepts and potential mistakes you may have missed in your first read. It may also be helpful to enlist the buddy system and have a friend or virtual classmate read over your assignment as a new and unbiased set of eyes may catch errors or confusing ideas that you might skip over. By reviewing course material more than once you will have a better understanding of the course and an ability to apply the knowledge you have gained to life and work situations.
Tip #4: Manage Your Time Efficiently
Proper planning is one of the most important, and most difficult, aspects of online learning. Avoid rushing through your course readings or waiting until the last minute to work on and hand in assignments. It is up to you, and you alone, to review lectures and complete homework and assignments before final exams and course completion. As an online student, you often have to juggle personal responsibilities with course requirements such as study time, daily reading and assignment completion, so it is essential to manage your time carefully. Planning ahead and penciling in time for course preparation, daily assignments and lectures is therefore essential. Plan to check in online at least once a day and monitor discussion boards, looking for new announcements and course updates. Use paper as well as digital planners in addition to a to-do list to reinforce all of your priorities and deadlines.
Tip #5: Understand Your Commitment
If you are studying through an online format for the first time you might assume that this mode is easier because there is leeway in regards to time, flexibility and freedom. These, however, are advantages that can be misused. Online courses require more independence with course materials as well as technologies being utilized. Take action and initiative to ensure success by being self-disciplined and motivated. Set goals for yourself and ensure you are practicing the other tips mentioned such as time management and communication. Maybe even do a bit of extra reading and research through online Google searches and other web resources. If you fully engage in the online learning experience you will gain more than just credits, you will gain independence and life skills that can be applied at home and in the office.