Moving from the traditional classroom to an online environment can be a challenge. But many students quickly discover that going back to college to earn a bachelor degree online is easier than they thought. Successful online students are those that commit to their success by adopting the habits and environment required for achieving their goals.

Students can benefit from all that online learning has to offer with the following tips, in the four fundamental areas of:

  • Preparation
  • Dedicated workspace
  • Time management
  • Communication

Prepare for Day One

Transition into online classes by becoming familiar with the online platform. Sign in and spend time learning how to navigate the system. Become comfortable with how it works.

In many ways, online learning is like in-person learning and you can prepare in many of the same ways. Read the syllabus in advance and have any needed textbooks and supplies ready.

Before classes begin, create a calendar for the entire semester. Use the syllabus to enter due dates into your calendar. It also helps to designate the time you’ll need to study each week. A good rule of thumb is about three hours per week for every credit hour you are taking.

Create a Dedicated Space for Learning

Before class starts, create space dedicated solely to learning. In a traditional course, you’d spend your class time in a lecture hall or classroom. It helps to have that same dedicated space focused on education in your home. Let everyone in your home know about your dedicated space. Explain that when you are studying, you should not be disturbed unless it’s an emergency, just like a traditional classroom.

Students may find it’s easier to focus on their course in a space that isn’t too comfortable or near potential distractions, such as  a high foot traffic area.

Improve Time Management

The IBM Institute for Business Value ranks time management as one of the most desired – and rarest – skills for employees. Becoming a successful online student offers the chance to hone time management skills that lead to success both as an online student and in your post-graduation career.

The modern world is full of distractions and it takes a concerted effort to avoid them. For example, 39% of parents and 31% of teens say they lose time on the job or doing schoolwork because they get distracted by their smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. Television, streaming services, and computer games are distracting and counterproductive to your commitment.

Online learning gives students a chance to overcome those distractions. It helps to turn off all electronic devices, keep track of how you spend your time (an eye-opener for most people), and make adjustments to reduce non-productive time.

Be realistic about the time you need to accomplish specific tasks to avoid overscheduling. Recognize also when you’re procrastinating, the archenemy of time management.

Communication Is Key

Communication is just as important for a successful online student as it is for a student in a traditional classroom. The difference is in the methods of communication.

For example, in the virtual learning environment, you can create study groups with fellow students using video conferencing or online chat rooms. Take advantage of available channels to communicate with professors, including email and direct messaging.

Merrimack College provides each student with a personal success coach. Maintaining regular contact with your coach can help you navigate the system, stay on pace with your degree program, and prepare for your post-graduation career.

Adult learners can become successful online students by putting these ideas to work as they prepare for their online courses. Doing so is worthwhile because the reward is earning a college degree in a way that allows them to fit schoolwork into busy professional and personal schedules.