If you are new to online education, one of the biggest challenges is finding the time to study. However, once you do, how do you study? What’s the first thing you do? And the last?
We asked several graduates who attended the 2014 commencement ceremonies what advice they would offer to new students or those struggling with online studies. While offering advice, several graduates stressed to remember that everyone learns differently and you will need to find what works best for you. From timing to location to even sitting positions, everyone studies in their own way.
We’ve compiled some tips from graduates, and the Student Success Center, to help you succeed in your studies so you, too, can walk across that stage at graduation.
Use the syllabus for your courses: “The syllabus is a key tool for an online student. It is very easy to overlook an assignment and having that syllabus close by is very helpful,” said Anthony Goudia, who graduated with a master’s degree in emergency services management. Graduates also said the syllabus should be read before students start the course and treated as a map. The syllabus is important for preparation in scheduling homework time amid all the other things in your life. Business administration graduate Lili Miller added, “Print out the syllabus and assessments so you can work offline.” This can be an efficient timesaver when you have some downtime and want to study.
Same Bat time, same Bat channel: Several graduates and the Success Center urged the importance of studying at a set time. For Mark McLean, who completed a bachelor’s in organizational leadership, this time was on Saturday and/or Sunday mornings starting at 4:30 a.m., long before the rest of his family was awake. “This limited the distractions. I had my books, my breakfast, and my computer so that I would not have an excuse to step away until my scheduled break time, which was approximately every 45 – 50 minutes.” He and Miller also agreed location is key, too. Whether it’s at a desk in your home office, favorite recliner, dining room table, etc., study or work at the same place. “My mind knew it was time for work mode when coffee was in hand and I was sitting at my desk,” said McLean.
Break down material: As IT graduate Atalecia Anderson put it: “Don’t try to cram everything in during one study session, it makes for one big headache!” Remember, it’s not a race to see who finishes first. Students should take their time and focus on learning, not memorizing, the course material. Goudia advises reading the chapters at the beginning of the assignment week to aid in comprehension when doing the assignments.
Use academic resources: Anderson and others suggest that new students should get acquainted with all the resources CSU has to offer. From the library to professors to the Success Center, there are many resources available to help adult learners succeed. Remember: You are not alone in this nor should you feel that way.
Ask questions of professors: A strong tip from the Success Center that is vital to student learning is asking questions when you don’t understand, are not sure about something or want to make sure you are on the right track. Several graduates such as Anderson also agreed that professors should be contacted first for clarification of the course material at any time.
Read to learn: Graduates offered several views on the importance of educating yourself via the course material. “Distant learning offers some temptations that lead to bad study habits,” said McLean. “This is where much of the self-discipline is needed when it comes to distant learning. Doing enough just to get by might get a degree, but your future employer is going to expect you to use the knowledge obtained, so obtain it.” McLean added that taking notes to identify important information and knowing where the material is in the textbook for quick reference will help you in preparing for the final exam.
Use the Success Center: The center can help students develop learning styles and study skill techniques that will enhance their learning. In addition, the center offers limited course support and the acceptance of referrals for specialized subject area assistance and monitors academic progress. It has patient math and writing experts to help those struggling. The center is a great resource that all students should know.
Don’t get overwhelmed: One of the common feelings among many new to online education or those who have been out of school for a long time is to feel that this is just too much. Heed the words of Miller: “‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’ is what my father used to say. It has worked for me my whole college career.” Using the other tips listed here can help students avoid feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up. Also, you should talk with your academic advisor or professor to let them know what you are going through. You will find CSU staff and faculty flexible and willing to work with you.
Get a study buddy: Miller advises finding someone to study with to help you stay motivated if necessary. “Even if it is a student in K-12 grades. It encourages good study habits and strong family time together,” she said. Many students find bonding with their co-workers, classmates or kids over homework or setting up challenges provides a fun motivation for learning. So make a bet or set a goal for both of you to achieve and have fun.
Check the APA: Miller and others remind all students to remember to check the APA guide for proper style and grammar in writing assignments. Students can access this through the Student Portal interface.