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Going “All In” with Online Learning

Are you ready? After you’ve done your research, compared the options available, and made the necessary financial arrangements, you stand at the virtual door of your first online course – time to go “all in.” I’ve heard this phrase used in multiple contexts over the past couple of weeks and although I’m not a poker player, I do think the concept applies well to many areas of life in which we have goals related to personal and professional achievement – family, work, and school.

What does it mean to be all in?

In the context of online education, it means dedicating your time and attention, as well as carefully coordinating work and family obligations. It means that you as a student are:

  • Taking responsibility: By accepting that you are the one accountable for your success, you take responsibility for the outcomes of your efforts. As a student you’ll have the support of your instructors and a wide range of services, but it will be up to you to do the work required to achieve the learning goals of your courses and programs.
  • Choosing to be present: Once you are enrolled in a course it is essential that you show up. In an online course, this means logging in to the course site and actively interacting with your instructor, classmates, and the course materials. This takes time and focused attention, and may require some sacrifices on your part – passing on leisure activities and spending some of your free time reading and working on assignments.
  • Honoring the commitment: Getting an education is neither quick nor easy. Your commitment to completing a program comes along with understanding what to expect as it relates to the amount of time involved and the work that’s ahead of you. Keeping your long-term education and career goals in mind can help you get through the bad days, and make the good days that much more rewarding.

There are, of course, no guarantees, but going all in with your education isn’t gambling – it’s an investment. Through a combination of thoughtful choices and hard work you can minimize risks and accomplish your goals. Not all semesters will be “wins” as you manage all that life throws at you, but you can minimize possible “losses” by taking responsibility, being present, and making a commitment to the process.

Are You all in?

Once you are enrolled, there are many things you can do, specific actions you can take, to support your own learning success. Here are a few to consider as you begin a new online program:

  • Reach out to ask for help when you need it. The nature of learning online and “at a distance” means that your instructors may not know you are struggling or dealing with problems unless you make them aware of the situation. Your school provides a wealth of assistance ranging from libraries and career services to academic advising and writing centers that can help you overcome the obstacles you encounter along the way.
  • Schedule your time wisely. While this may seem obvious, that first course can be overwhelming in terms of what is required to complete all of the assignments. Blocking specific time for your studies can help you stay on track and find a balance in work, school, and taking care of yourself. Efficient scheduling takes practice so set your priorities for each week and experiment with your use of time each day to find out what will work best for you.
  • Join the learning community. An advantage of online learning is the possibility of being “in class” with students in other geographic locations, with different backgrounds. The one thing you all have in common is your online course. By taking the time to get to know, even virtually, the other students in your class you may find that they not only have challenges that are similar to yours, but also can help answer your questions and provide support as your peers.

Pursuing higher education, online or on-campus, isn’t easy. It is, however, a worthwhile endeavor made even more valuable by your commitment to learning and involvement in the process. And you may find that the difficulty level actually decreases once you decide to go all in.

For those of you who have experience with online learning, please share your advice and lessons learned here. How are you managing your many responsibilities while focusing on your coursework? For those of you just starting your online programs, consider sharing your questions and concerns.

Image credit: Tiger Girl, Flickr, CC-BY