With no professor watching over you or other students hanging out to discuss Philosophy 101, online learning requires strong internal discipline to stay the course.
Peggy Watts, director of distance learning at Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University, says it can be tempting to let work slide.
“People have to set themselves a schedule,” she says. “Students should be watching the lectures every week and keeping up with the work. The person who leaves them all to the night before the midterm is not going to do very well.”
For extra motivation, email, Skype or telephone your professor when you don’t understand something. That personal relationship will keep you on your toes.
Lorna Prediger works at the University of Calgary’s department of continuing education and is also an online student. She says students who miss real classes will likely skip virtual ones, too.
The live courses are an important chance to connect with students and professors, she says.
In between those, professors set regular deadlines for group discussions and assignments. Stick to them, Prediger advises, and enjoy the benefits of attending class when it works for you.
How to hang out online
Old-school distance learning meant you had little contact with other students, but now you can virtually be best buddies with classmates in Cape Breton or Toronto.
Course-management programs like Moodle and Blackboard are popular open-source systems where students and professors can meet to exchange notes and receive feedback.
Students can also friend-up fellow students on Facebook, follow each other on Twitter and set Skype study dates to enhance the sense of a learning community.