Preparing for Classes

It's the final week before your classes begin. Here are some steps you should take to make sure you have the best possible chance of success during your classes.

First, make sure your classes WILL HAPPEN. If a class only has one person signed up out of 50, the class could easily be canceled. You might think, "it's an online class, why do they care if there's only one student in it?" But many classes rely on forum discussion and inter-class conversation to make the class work. Classmates are supposed to share ideas, give each other feedback, and so on. If there's only one of you in the class, it's hard to give yourself feedback! Make sure during that final week leading up to your class that you check in regularly on your classes. If the class seems full, you're probably in good shape. If you are the only person in your class, or there's only two or three of you in a class meant to be big, talk to your teacher or other contacts. Find out what the school's cancellation policy is. It might be wise to scope out an alternative class so you are prepared for trouble.

In my case, Northeastern typically has online classes that can handle up to 50 students. Two of my classes had about 25 students each, and seemed quite fine to run. A third class, though, only had 3 people in it. Rather than wait for disaster, I dropped that class and signed up for another one that was more full. That way I could continue my planning without any fears.

Look to see if the syllabus is available for each of your classes, and print those out. Start folders or binders or whatever works well for you to organize your time. Time management is one of the biggest challenges for online degrees. You have to keep track of your assignments, your deadlines, and stay on track. Hang a calendar by your desk and mark assignments on it. Use an online alarm program to put alerts on your computer when assignments are coming due. Use as many different systems as you need to. It is your own money and fate at risk here.

Get a sense for when everything begins, and what is going to be required. The more you become familiar with the steps, the less likely you will be caught off guard by something later on. Life throws disasters at you - a flooded basement, a killer cold. Be prepared. Read early. That way if you hit a glitch, it won't slow you down.

One of the biggest challenges with distance learning is getting your hands on textbooks. Usually you do not have a "campus bookstore" right there to go visit. Make sure you plan for your books IN ADVANCE. It can easily save you hundreds of dollars a semester in fees. I have a whole article on this topic, because it's so crucial.

Buying Books for Online Classes

Online Degrees

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