Six Online Education Essentials

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Check out these six online education essentials that can offer you a beneficial learning experience.

By Simon Herbert    

Looking for a convenient way to go back to school - when and where you want? An online education might be for you.  Online classes offer new ways for time-challenged students to balance their education with the commitments of daily life.

But with great flexibility comes great responsibility on the part of the student.

Whether it's participating in class or blocking out study times, earning an online degree requires certain fundamentals to help you succeed.

Keep reading to learn more about six online education essentials.

#1 - Gain Basic Computer Literacy

If you want to thrive in an online education, it'll be helpful for you to know the basics of using a computer and surfing the Internet.

If you don't think your computer skills are up to par, don't worry just yet.

"Many courses provide 'online management platforms' for students that can offer critical help in terms of orientation," says Eileen Kohan, associate provost and executive director of continuing education at USC.

By the end of these "orientations," you'll likely be ready to undertake basic web research, access hyperlinks from your syllabus, and use search engines.


#2 - Invest in the Right Equipment

While having a computer and Internet access is essential for any online student, you'll need more than that to help you succeed in an online environment.

You should also get a hold of a webcam and microphone, both of which can help you effectively communicate with your professors and classmates.

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Think about it. A webcam and microphone can make it possible for you to bring the fun and excitement of a classroom into your living room. You'll be able to watch real-time lectures and ask your professor questions.  


#3 - Engage With Your Fellow Students

Even if you're sitting at your computer by yourself, once you've enrolled in a course, it might help you to know that you're never alone as a student. In many cases, you're just a click away from connecting with your peers.

"Students in that same class have various options to interact and to get help and advice from one another, such as instant messaging or following discussions on bulletin boards," says Ichon.

Communicating with your classmates is also ideal for discussing lectures, getting help on assignments, and networking.


#4 - Participate in Class

Just like in a face-to-face classroom, you'll likely be expected to participate in an online class.

The good news? Online courses offer shyer students the chance to "put their hand up" in situations that might be less intimidating than public face-to-face classrooms.

"Some students find this an easier process than participating on campus," says Ichon.

Some ways you could participate in class include posting a message to your class messaging system and joining a discussion board.


#5 - Take Advantage of College Resources

Think earning an online degree means no access to college resources? Think again.

There are many school resources that you'll have access to as an online student, says Eric Ichon, dean of distance learning and educational technology at West Los Angeles College.

But more importantly, these resources could help guide you towards a successful academic career.

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"For instance, advisors can access your educational records, and thereby advise you on your eligibility for any given course and advise about basic choices that you need to make in order to plan ahead," says Ichon.


#6 - Organize Your Study Time

Having the flexibility to go to school when and where you want is great. But deciding on "when" and "where" you're actually going to study? Well, that gets tough.

It's crucial to set aside a time and place to review lectures, notes, and study for exams.

West Valley College in Saratoga, California, suggests that online students "work out your typical weekly schedule - on paper - so you will have a general guide for fitting your time to study into your other activities."


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