In a previous article, we covered the 12 advantages of studying online. More universities are making their top programs and degrees available to online students, so it is not surprising to find online programs becoming the go-to solution for those who want to pursue a higher degree. Everyone, from professionals and full-time students, is opting for online courses because of the advantages they offer.
Deciding to continue your study online, however, is only the beginning. You still need to choose the right course to take and prepare for the program itself. Using today’s top nursing programs as examples, here are some of the things you need to do to prepare for an online course.
A Program that Works
Not all online courses are created equal. For starters, some online programs require one or two class attendances for you to complete the course. Others are conducted 100% online through an online learning platform. One isn’t better than the other, but you have to be informed about the requirements of the program before deciding to enroll.
When offline classes are mandatory, make sure you know the schedules – and where those classes will be hosted – before joining the program. You can prepare for those classes early and eliminate unnecessary issues along the way. You can also rearrange your schedules so that the offline classes are easier to handle.
With 100% online programs, you simply need to learn more about the program requirements. That actually brings us to the next tip.
Understand the Requirements
You must always review a number of things before deciding to take an online course. Knowing the requirements that you have to meet in order to qualify for the course is a good start. Depending on the program you want to take, you may need to have an undergraduate degree or a certain SAT score.
With nursing programs, for instance, there are specific requirements related to past education and a career in nursing. To enroll in an RN-BSN program, you have to be a registered nurse with some on-the-job experience. Other programs with higher degrees may have more complex requirements.
While studying the requirements, you will also come across the advantages of BSN in nursing – or the advantages of taking the program you have in mind. You can stay motivated for longer when you know the benefits you can get at the end of the course.
Take a Look at the Program
Next, read through the syllabus for the program and understand details about the course to the letter. This is an important step to take since you want to be able to plan ahead for the online course. Remember that online courses are just as challenging as their offline counterparts, so you want to be fully prepared for classes, assignments, and exams before getting started.
As mentioned before, you want a program that works for you. You need to make sure that you can complete the program in a timely manner. On top of that, you want to check details about the classes you need to complete and whether you can learn the necessary nursing skills and get a career boost.
While you are at it, find information about the ways learning materials are distributed. Do you have to follow live streams of important classes? Are there assignments to complete? How do you get in touch with lecturers and fellow online students? The more of these questions you answer, the more you are ready for the course.
Start Managing Your Time
Don’t wait until you start the program to reorganize your time. It takes around 12 to 14 days on average to get used to new schedules and it is always best to start early. By the time the course starts, you are already used to allocating certain parts of your day for studying.
Allocating time for studying is important. As tempting as it is to study when you have time, online courses require you to MAKE time for studying. There are still course materials to get through and the only way you can get through them effectively is by spending one or two hours every day studying.
If you want to complete the course faster, you also have the option to allocate more time and take more classes. When taking a master’s degree in nursing, for example, you can shorten the course length to as little as 15 to 18 months by completing your classes faster. You still master the necessary skills and end up with a master’s degree in nursing at the end of the course.
Get the Right Tools
The right gadgets will make life as an online student easy. After all, you have to be independent, access the online learning platform in your own time, and stay ahead of the course at every turn. You need a good laptop or a capable tablet to get the job done. The new iPad Pro and a thin-and-light Windows 2-in-1 are options worth considering.
You also need a reliable internet connection. Relying on your phone’s data plan and free Wi-Fi hotspots are great, but it is even better to pick up your own mobile 4G access point if you want to stay mobile. With a mobile access point, you don’t have to look for free Wi-Fi or spend time searching for the perfect place to sit whenever you have urgent assignments to submit.
Other supporting gadgets are just as useful. A Kindle lets you bring your textbooks with you everywhere. A capable smartphone is also handy for when you need to make quick edits to your documents, or when you need to access the learning platform and check exam schedules.
Master the Art of Notetaking
Just because you are not attending offline classes and lectures, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to take notes. In fact, notetaking is an essential skill for every online student. You have hundreds of pages of course materials to go through; being able to summarize those materials into easy-to-understand notes will help you stay on top of any challenge throughout the course.
Knowing how to take notes effectively is also handy when you are studying for an online exam. Writing down the things you learn is an effective way of memorizing them. You are not only simplifying the learning process, but also making exam preparations easier to handle.
There is another thing that makes notetaking an essential skill: you can work with fellow online students better when notes are involved. Instead of trading page numbers or chapters from the textbook, you can send notes and summaries for faster learning.
Learn to Connect
Being an online student doesn’t mean doing everything on your own. As previously discussed, you still have lecturers and fellow students sharing the learning experience with you. Connecting with them is a crucial part of succeeding as an online student.
Introducing yourself to lecturers at the beginning of each semester is a good habit to get into. When you do need the help of your lecturers, you don’t have to go through the process of introducing yourself again. Lecturers will also remember you better; this can prove to be beneficial when you need to ask for more assignments in order to boost your score.
Some programs oblige students to work together, while others simply provide ways for students to communicate with each other. Regardless of the kind of nursing program you are in, connecting with fellow students is still a good idea. You are not only getting help from the course but also expanding your professional network in the process.
Save Up on Motivation
Last but not least, make sure you know how to stay motivated throughout the course. Being excited about the nursing degree at the beginning of the course isn’t enough. You have to have clear goals that you want to achieve and a plan that will take you to those goals. Staying motivated is a challenge for even the best online students.
When you are not motivated enough, it is easy to dismiss the need to study for an exam. You’ll start using the time that already allocated for activities other than studying. You are also more prone to distractions when you are not committed and motivated enough. These are small problems that easily lead to you failing the course and not earning the degree that you want.
It is clear that staying motivated is important, and there are a few ways to do that. You can start by finding a study environment that works for you; your room can be just as effective as a nearby coffee shop that you like so much. You also want to keep your eyes on the prize – the goals that you want to achieve – to remind yourself.
When hitting a roadblock, take a break and come back stronger. Try to maintain a balanced life so you don’t see studying as a burden or a nuisance.
Make these preparations and you can start – and complete – a nursing program of your choice without a problem. When you take the right program, know exactly what you are doing, and have the resources to get you to the end of the course, pursuing an online nursing degree becomes an easy challenge to overcome.