Ensuring Success as an Online Grad Student

By Chassidy Green, educational consultant and Jonathan Farley, associate professor at Morgan State University

With the increased popularity of online graduate programs across many disciplines, it’s no surprise that tens of thousands of newly enrolled learners each year opt for distance learning when completing an advanced degree. “Online grad programs are becoming more popular among working adults due to the flexibility of the schedule,” Green says. But what do students considering this path need to know about how to achieve success while enrolled? Keep reading to learn more.

  1. Set Aside Space
    Having a dedicated workspace is so important to online student success,” notes Green. “I finished my home office before I started my doctoral program, knowing that I would need a quiet place to work if I planned on finishing my degree in a reasonable amount of time.” She continues, “for some students, working at Starbucks or in a public library is ideal; whatever the location, I do believe it is important to work in an environment that’s conducive to learning.
  2. Build Rapport with Professors
    “Sometimes when we don’t have direct contact with supervisors, it can be easy to slack off,” notes Jonathan Farley. Without that regular, face-to-face interaction with teachers, it can be difficult to feel truly accountable. Consider asking professors if it’s possible to Skype or otherwise communicate at least once weekly at a set time to ensure you feel responsible for present and future work.
  3. Understand the Equipment
    As online classes become more sophisticated, the technology powering them does the same. Today’s learning management systems allow professors and students to interact with the curriculum in meaningful ways, discuss coursework, complete assignments, take examinations and manage schedules under one easy umbrella. Students may also need to familiarize themselves with other technology such as video conferencing apps, message forums and email.
  4. Strengthen Your Writing Skills
    Because most interaction within online programs takes place at a distance, professors tend to judge students mostly by their writing. Because of this, it’s important to carefully review any communications being sent out, be they part of a forum discussion or a dissertation. Aside from developing thoughtful answers that fully answer questions posed, students should pay special attention to grammar and syntax.
  5. Manage Time Effectively
    To ensure degree seekers have the flexibility needed to thrive in an online learning environment, many distance education programs offer asynchronous learning. Under this system, students watch pre-recorded lectures and turn in assignments whenever their schedule best allows rather than being required to meet set deadlines. This system may seem great, and for some it is, but to be successful, students must manage their time wisely and make sure to stay on top of assignments.
  6. Avoid Distractions
    Because online learners don’t visit campus each week to take classes, their home or office essentially becomes the classroom. In addition to setting aside a dedicated space to complete assignments, online graduate students must also ensure no distractions invade the space. Television, loud music and visiting family members are much harder to block out while at home, but students must maintain focus while completing an online degree if they wish to succeed.
By Milo Orr
Milo Orr