10 Tips For Succeeding in Online College Courses

Thinking of taking your education to the next level with one or more online courses?

Taking college courses online, completing one or more degrees online, can be an extremely rewarding experience, both personally and professionally.

But to be successful, you need to go into the process with the correct strategy for success. To that end, please find the following success tips -- from someone who teaches online.

Tips for How to Succeed in an Online Program

1. Have realistic expectations. Some people think taking classes online will be easier than conventional classroom experiences, but the thing to remember is that online classes are more convenient, not easier. You can work your online studies around your other responsibilities, but some online programs are much more challenging than conventional classroom programs. Make this mistake, and you will surely not be happy with your grades.

2. Master self-discipline and develop a time management system. Be organized. Most courses are taught in one- or two-week modules, with various assignments and due dates. Get organized before you start a program and map out all your assignments and deadlines at the start of each class using a calendar, e-device, or planner -- and stick to your schedule as best you can. Remember to prioritize assignments.

3. Understand degree/course options. One of the great benefits of some online programs is giving you the flexibility to design your own course options -- and the timing of those courses. But with that flexibility comes more responsibility on your part for doing the research and planning your program carefully to achieve your goals. With other programs, you may need to obtain approval to take a reduced load or take a semester's leave of absence, so do your due diligence.

4. Know campus/course resources. As soon as you start an online program, spend time learning all the resources available to you to enhance your studies, such as library databases, learning guides, videos, and other educational tools. If you have a learning disability, make early contact with the school's disabled student services office.

5. Solidify technology. Perhaps a bit too obvious, but still needs to be said. If you are planning to study online, you need a strong and consistent Internet connection and a decent computer with a webcam. If you live in an area with weak or slow services, you may find taking classes harder. And having an older computer may slow or impede your progress. Finally, you must be open to working with new learning platforms and portals.

6. Communicate with your professor. Professors are people, and we make mistakes such as giving the wrong due date, uploading the wrong course calendar, or not providing enough information about an assignment. The solution? Simply email your professor. We will not be upset (except with ourselves, perhaps); we want our classes to be as useful and educational as possible. Never hesitate to ask for clarification. (Just remember to always be professional in your emails.)

7. Participate/engage with peers. Some online programs actually force you to engage with your peers, but if your program doesn't, try and reach out anyway through the discussion boards initially, but also by keeping relationships beyond the end of class. Sharing your experiences with others in your program helps keep you grounded and focused -- and prevents you from feeling too isolated and alone, especially when you have questions or concerns.

8. Find a dedicated study/work space. Like having time management skills, having a dedicated workspace just for school greatly improves your chances for success. Carve out a niche for yourself in your home that is quiet and fits your needs for how you best work. Having a dedicated space helps make schoolwork part of your routine.

9. Make time for study breaks. Most students taking online classes already lead busy and stressful lives, and adding one or more classes makes each day shorter and more complicated. Do not add to your stress by trying to force prolonged periods at your computer. Just about every study shows that taking breaks from schoolwork enhances your results, so get up and stretch, take a short walk or bike ride, or just go stand by a window and let your brain and eyes relax. For best results, take one break per hour.

10. Polish those writing skills. Most online programs require a lot of writing, from posting on discussion boards to case analyses to full-blown research papers. Solid writing skills are essential to your success, so if you have struggled in the past, consider taking a writing class before starting your online program -- and/or purchase a few helpful books, such as The Elements of Style, perhaps the best little writing handbook. Key elements professors harp on deal with grammar, punctuation, and style. (So remember to also purchase a style handbook, typically APA or MLA). Remember the rule of good writing: write, review, revise (and if necessary, do review and revise again). And because it's hard to proofread your own work, ask a spouse or friend to review your big assignments before submitting. See also these 10 Good Grammar Resources.

Final Thoughts on Taking Online Programs

If it is your first time taking online classes, and/or you are going back for the first time in a while, start slowly -- ideally with just one or two classes -- and work your way up; do not jump in to a program and find yourself overwhelmed, frustrated, and disappointed, which will probably lead to poor grades and perhaps dismissal from the program. Participating at your own pace is one of the greatest aspects of many online programs.

Finally, always keep your end-goal in your sight -- whatever it is you hope/plan to accomplish with this additional education/degree/training/certificate. Having that goal will be a great motivator for those times when you get mired in the day-to-day class stuff. And if you are struggling with a particular class you need for your goal, just keep reminding yourself: "This is temporary; I will get through it; I will succeed.

For additional college success tools, see our sister site, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, dedicated to providing expert advice for succeeding in college.

Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com.

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.