Taking classes online is, in some ways, more freeing than attending those same classes in person. But, even in the small things, freedom isn’t free. With greater freedom comes greater responsibility. A traditional class generally meets anywhere from two to five days a week. Showing up for each class ties up your schedule, but meeting with the teacher that often also acts as a prod to keep up with your assigned reading and get your homework done. Quite often, though teachers of online classes only schedule virtual meetings once a week or so. You end up with more time to accomplish your assignments, but if you tend to procrastinate at all, you may find yourself furiously scrambling to get through an entire week’s worth of material in the last few hours.
If you set up your own work schedule, allotting time each day for reading and homework, and then stick to that schedule, you will tend to do better in your online course, and will get more out of that course. Completing assignments prior to when they are due also gives you time to contact the teacher for assistance, if you need it. Waiting for the scheduled meeting can be counter-productive, as the teacher normally uses that time to discuss the next assignments, and does not want to spend a great deal of time on answering questions about the previous assignment. Especially in a subject like math, in which each new module builds upon knowledge gained in previous sections, once you fall behind, you face great barriers in trying to catch up.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of depending too much on the technology. Your computer and your internet connection are your lifelines to your syllabus, your assignments, even your teacher, but they can be tenuous. Waiting until the last minute to complete your assignments, counting on the fact that everything will work just fine just when you need it, is like driving to work with a bulge in your tire, hoping that it won’t blow before you get to your parking space. Computers freeze up at just the wrong time, internet connections fail just when you are ready to work on your assignment, and servers go down at the most inconvenient times. If you plan to get your work done well in advance, you’ll have time to cope with the inevitable crashes that life seems to send our way at exactly the worst times.
And realize that the odds are that, no matter how computer savvy you are, you will encounter some new program, or new app, that you must master before you can complete your work. Unlike in a traditional classroom, where you still might be able to get all of your work done using just old-fashioned paper and pencil, online classes continually adapt to new technology. Which is great, because it usually means an upgrade, making life easier and making classwork and learning more accessible, when it all works, and when you know how to use it. But learning to use a new program on the fly, at the same time as you are trying to learn the subject matter, can make life so difficult that it can be tempting to just drop the whole course altogether. Give yourself plenty of time to learn them both, and your distance learning experience can be an excellent one.