The ABCs of Success in Distance Education Part 3

Set aside time to focus on your studies in order to do well in online classes (Photo courtesy of flickr user mandajomiles)The post-holiday return to school can be difficult and everyone has their own unique ideas on what you can do to ease the pain. As you continue your journey researching distance education and how to become a successful learner in the online environment, we will examine letters G, H, and I in the Distance Education Alphabet.

G: Gather your instructor comments and feedback and use them to improve your future assignments

Instructors and teaching assistants regularly provide feedback on a student’s assignment to help him/her improve upon their skills. By utilizing this feedback students can drastically increase their knowledge and potentially see an immediate improvement on future grades.

In some instances, student may be perfectionists and they misinterpret constructive criticism as “attacking” or “being picked on” by the instructor; this is incorrect and can lead to anxiety, anger, or even withdrawal from courses. To prevent being upset about future grades, or even the final course grade, consider what you can do to raise your scores in the future: read, review, and follow suggestions.

H: Help yourself. Ask for help the second you feel lost or confused; do not procrastinate.

Students get lost or behind while studying new material; it’s almost inevitable. But what do you do when you realize the pages of material you just finished reading didn’t “click” at all? A successful student seeks assistance from outside sources. Consider contacting the instructor, the student who always posts his/her discussion board answers 3 days before the due date, or even the Khan Academy for guidance. Unfortunately, in the distance education world, instructors and teaching assistants oftentimes consider no news to be good news. How are they supposed to know from Oregon that you, in North Carolina, don’t have a clue how to solve for x without an email notification?

One of the wisest pieces of advice ever given to me was from my 11th and 12th grade English teacher: Use your text to take your test. What she meant was, oftentimes there are questions within your test that can guide you through the steps to answer other problems. For example, if question 3 asks Who was Hamlet’s love interest? And you don’t know the answer, but question 17 states Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, disapproved of her relationship with Hamlet. Why? You can use the information from question 17 to answer question 3. Cool, huh?

I: Initiate study groups instead of waiting for others to form them.

If you believe you would benefit from a weekly study group to help you review the material being covered in class, then start one. Don’t wait around for others to initiate anything as you could have been studying already by time they do. Send emails to invite other students, and work closely with your study-buddies. Other students will appreciate your guidance and initiative, your understanding of the material should improve, and you could continue working with these partners in future classes depending on your class schedule.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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