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Oct 22, 2016 09:38 PM EDT

Enrolling in Online Courses: Suggestions for Students and Learners To Get Started

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Online courses offers convenience and flexibility to learners. A report shows that more and more people are taking advantage of online learning and enrolling some to get additional knowledge and training and some, to get their degrees.

The survey from the Online Learning Consortium showed that there is an increase of 3.9% in the number of higher education students taking up at least a course online.

In Ball State University (BSU) for example, online courses have become popular and around 38.9 percent of students participated in some form of distance or online learning last year.

For some, it can be a breeze getting set up and ready while others may find themselves at a loss and overwhelmed. Students in BSU noted that convenience is one of their main motivation. However, they also reported that the lack of motivation and discipline are major drawbacks that made the experience a little less pleasant than they would have wanted.

"I don't think online courses are for everyone. You have to be motivated and disciplined to be a good online student. Like all courses, you get out of online courses what you put into them." Sally Brocksen, instructional design and technology consultant at Ball State told the Ball State Daily.

So if you're thinking of enrolling in an online class but have some hesitations, here are some suggestions to help you get started with online courses:

Read course directives

It may come in a course syllabus or a course manual, be sure you know the scope and requirements of passing the course as well as the expectations you need to meet. Take note of instructors and tutors contact details, deadlines for assignments and other deliverables and suggested reference materials. Clarify immediately if you have any questions or would need additional information.

Get in touch with the instructor

Make the conscious effort to reach out to your instructor and introduce yourself. Establishing a connection early on can help you loosen up and ask for help when you're having trouble with an assignment or project.

Find a tutor and get to know other people in the class

Sometimes online courses suggest people who can act as coaches or tutors, get in touch with them. If there's none available, the next best place to look is on campus - a professor, a teaching assistant or someone who's taken the course before can be your prospect. Getting to know people from your online class also helps because you have someone you can chat and discuss coursework with.

Organize your space and schedule

This is where a number of students make the mistake of overlooking online courses. Yes, it is flexible and convenient because you can do course work in your preferred time and place but remember, you still need to do the work. Set clear guidelines for yourself, organize your room or dorm to make sure you have a defined and quiet space conducive for learning. Dedicate which days of the week should be spent for your online course and identify the time. Also be sure to have your course deliverables' deadlines on your calendar so you don't miss them.

Get tools and references

Apart from course materials specified by the instructor, check your university's library for other materials that can help you understand the lessons in the course better. Have your course materials on your study area so they can be easily accessed when needed.

Establish a support system

Let your roommates know that you are taking up an online course. You may not get them to join you in class but at least they can help you by keeping quiet or allowing you to study when you need to. Getting in touch with your "online classmates" also help you keep track of your progress and reminds you of deadlines.

Online courses may have its own set of challenges but once you've learned how to manage them well, it can be a very rewarding learning experience.

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