Success with Online Classes
This is not going to discuss whether or not online classes are for you. If you’re wondering that, this article will naturally help you decide by showing you what is in store.
If you are still undecided, do your homework (pun totally intended) and get as many views as you can from people who have been on both sides like me. Don’t listen to anyone who has an opinion, only those who have experience and perspective.
I have taken online classes a couple different times at different points in my life.
I have failed (in my early 20s) and I have succeeded (in my early 30s). The first go ‘round my lifestyle consisted of my girlfriend and me. That’s it. Wide open! How does a guy with ZERO responsibilities lay a big goose egg in something he said he would do?
Let me help you understand the situation a little more clearly in hopes you will see no matter how much you’ve tried, based on my example, you will be highly encouraged.
I was riding out an “A” in two classes, I was two weeks out from the end of the semester and I just stopped doing the work. What?! Yep, you read that right. One adjective someone who gave birth to me once used to describe my actions was “stupid”. There were others.
Okay, what’s the point?
- I started the process because others (parents, friends, etc.) said I should. If you are not doing it for you or your family (husband, wife, kids), failure lurks in the shadows.
- I was not passionate about the subject matter.
- No written commitment. Even with these previous two negatives it’s still possible to succeed. You must simply be committed.
- No plan. I went about my online courses because it seemed like something good to do. You must have a strategy in place. Writing it down dramatically increases your ability to succeed.
Since that first failure I have learned some invaluable lessons. So valuable, they’ve allowed me great success and somewhat ease in later engagement of online classes where I’ve done very well.
Hopefully you find value for yourself and what you’re trying to do through some of my experience.
First and most important:
- Pick something you are passionate about. Be INTO what you’re IN!
Think about the last endeavor or project you started but did not finish. Why did you quit before you finished?
I would be willing to venture it was because you lacked passion for it.
People talk about this concept of “burn out”. I believe burn out happens because a) someone has lost their passion or their reason, which is what drew them in the first place. Or b) they were doing something they were never passionate about in the first place.
I have been going all out for over 7 years chasing my purpose and fulfilling God’s destiny for my life. I’ve taken a bunch of classes, deployed to war, built a business (which is still my full time activity), begun, broke down, and rebuilt a website, and still given serious quality and quantity time to my family and friends.
I have never even sniffed a scent of burnout. I get tired at times, sure. However, due to the fire within for living my passion, my purpose, and my calling, there has NEVER been a time that I thought to myself that I was getting burned out. And I know what it looks and feels like, as this is what happened to me after only a short time as a Registered Nurse. I work harder now than I ever did as a nurse and it almost never feels like work.
- Thoroughly forecast what is ahead. This will mitigate as many barriers as possible.
Stuff is still going to pop up. Doing this will create the best chance for you to be prepared when something does pop up. Remember, life will happen to you… will you react and be at its mercy or will you respond and stay on top of it?
Things to consider when forecasting:
- Married? Is your spouse on board with your decision?
This is HUGE. If the two of you are not on the same page, it will be detrimental to your chances of successfully completing classes. You will need uninterrupted time away, even away in another room of the house. They must understand, be good with it and even set up household responsibilities in a way that encourages you to focus.
- Kids? Are they going to be swinging from the ceiling fan when you’re studying or working on the computer? This goes along with marital discussions during the forecasting phase for all you married people out there.
- Single parent? Tougher yet, but still 100% doable. People do it every day and you can too. This is no excuses time, big time. This is put-on-your-big-boy (or big girl)-pants-and-claim-a-better-life-for-your-family time. Maybe you have a job and cannot decrease your hours. Maybe finding trustworthy childcare is a real challenge. Whatever your situation, you are going to have to plan carefully.
The more challenges you face the more opportunity you have to be an incredible example of a parent to your children. Either way, we are examples of something to our kids, the question is what?
- Can you finish? Of course you can, I mean will something in the foreseeable future stop you. Here’s what I mean:
Are you planning a move? That will make it tough, NOT impossible. Again, these are things to consider.
Are you a woman and you’re 3 days from birth, you’re having Braxton-Hicks regularly and you can’t help scrubbing behind toilets at 3a.m.? It might not be the ideal moment to pick up classes online, offline or anywhere along the line for at least a few months.
“Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” Luke 14:28
This is what I mean by checking to see if you can finish. Is it a feasible time? Disclaimer: NO TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME – If you’re a grown-up
- Thoroughly review the degree plan of your desired major and determine what works best in your life at that particular time. In case you are unaware, a degree plan is the list of prerequisites/courses/electives you will be required to complete for your given degree.
Doing this the second time around was incredibly helpful, stress-reducing, and effective in making sure the classes fit in to my life rather than me fitting in to the class’s schedule. I believe strategically planning the specific classes for specific times of the year is one of the most powerful contributing factors in my success with online classes.
I invested hours combing over the various classes available, how their individual time frames lined up with each other, and how other classes would be affected in upcoming semesters. I did that for each semester and it paid off in major ways.
You will be wise to look at what will come down the road, try to anticipate where your life will be at the time when other semesters will occur, and choose the best possible schedule you can. It’s not going to be perfect, but you can line up a pretty good schedule that is very conducive to your life.
Schools provide degree plans and syllabuses (details of a particular course), use them in your planning and you will be way ahead of the game and your semesters will go much smoother because you planned them intentionally, unlike my first time through.
- Carefully assess your personal schedule and all it will include at the time of school, then line it up against how much time will be required to complete all necessary work for you particular online class.
The course syllabus is a great place to find out how much time each class requires.
Typically, a 3 credit hour class will recommend about 20 hours a week of total work time. Can you do it in less time? Probably. Is it guaranteed? No. Just take this into serious consideration.
Another great and not often thought of way of assessing this is to find the email or other contact information of a prospective professor you may have and ask them. My experience with reaching out and asking their perspective is very positive and served me well.
Usually schools will list faculty as well as the class availability in the area where you register for classes; it’s here where you’re likely to find the professors listed alongside the classes they conduct. And with the proliferation of social media (facebook, twitter, and linkedin), you shouldn’t have too hard of a time reaching out to them for help before you register for their class. Be polite and respectful of their time but this is what they do for a living, so ask them what to expect.
- Watch your money. This one is important. If you underestimate the costs, it’ll cost you. You could find yourself in an unpleasant and scary situation.
- Exhaust all options for programs for financial aid. Pursue any and all grants or other source you would NOT have to pay back BEFORE you decide to pursue a loan.
Depending on the demand from this post, I may do an article about going after a degree without getting buried in debt. You will let me know if I should do that or not.
Are you currently in the military or a veteran? If yes, there is money for you somewhere, find it. Ask questions of people who know (VA counselor at the school you’re interested in-they all have them), not the knucklehead who can’t put down the X-Box controller, is 42, living in his mom’s basement, and is “still working on my general ed. classes”).
If you’d like to ask me what I did, I’d be more than happy to assist. Just send me an email through the contact page and I’ll get back to you as swiftly as possible.
Are you a single parent, head-of-household? You have options as well.
Is your family below certain economic thresholds? You’re probably eligible for something too.
Possible sources (not loans):
- The Veterans’ Administration (Military and spouses)
- FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid (Pell Grant and more)
If at all possible, DO NOT take on debt for school. My goodness, don’t do it. K6 Leadership promotes a debt-free lifestyle as THE WAY to live. I don’t retract that belief or set it aside for this. UNLESS, you have received a calling from the heavens that you are to be something that gets a fancy title and hundreds of thousands in student loans is just how you have to do it, then do it.
I still don’t like it and I don’t have to, it’s your life. Just remember, take on student loan debt and you will be paying on it for a lonnnnnnng time. Do it as a physician or something similar and you’ll likely never get rid of it, ever. In your last will and testament you can tell your kids, “Surprise! You guys get my debt! And you thought you were getting an inheritance…LOL!”
Not to mention (even though I am) that this is the government’s #1 money-maker. If it were a private company, it would be MORE PROFITABLE than Exxon Mobile and Apple at $50 Billion in 2013! So, in this case, #1 means #1. And we thought our Uncle Sam cared about our education and was trying to help. If the government is eyeballs-deep in something, that should cause us to stop, think… and then run.
Just imagine with me, you’re one of the roughly 50% who graduates university and you’re one of the 50% who graduates and gets work in their field of study, thereby skipping the Applebee’s server gig and you actually start making money rather than working the next 30-40 years to pay off your degree. I don’t mean to be a downer, but that’s real.
Student Loan Quick Checklist
Debt till Death
50% don’t graduate (still owe the cash)
50% don’t work in field of study (still owe the cash)
Government’s #1 cash cow
Can’t be absolved of student loans through bankruptcy
Risk vs. Reward in this case is extremely lopsided in Risk’s favor
Resource links about the perils of student loans:
Most people in the system get sold a bill of goods that traps them until death. I just want to warn in any way I can. I know of people paying off loans for big-time degrees that work at fast food restaurants. Anyway, at this point I may be losing some of you so I’ll stop kicking this dead horse.
***END BIG TIP***
- Have all materials you’ll need before you start classes.
You will be given this information after enrollment. Do not delay on this. I delayed and it hurt because I was missing material I was supposed to be studying. That creates unnecessary issues. Don’t create unnecessary issues. You’ll have enough already.
- Determine your “class times”. Although your schedule is entirely in your hands to coordinate, I encourage you to determine before classes begin, according to your lifestyle needs and demands, when exactly you will be “in class”.
Make the decision once, then manage the decision. Commit. This is where discipline comes in and will make you or break you.
This will allow you to relax as well because our brains like routine and predictability. This is a major tip, don’t overlook it.
I like the late morning and escaping to a coffee shop where I can throw the ear buds in, sip on some Mocha Caramel goodness, and get to it. Studying this way, I can knock down hours without even noticing.
- Get to work. Be involved.
Engage your fellow students, especially through discussions. Be YOU. Don’t try to be something or someone you’re not. When I began speaking in my own voice, rather than trying sound super collegiate, I gained tremendous response from other classmates and my profs due to my “transparent” and “honest” style.
- Don’t forget your WHY. You began this whole process for a reason bigger than getting a grade or maybe even the degree or potential vocational opportunity, don’t let go of that reason.
Your reason is the very thing that will keep you string when it gets tough. And it will get tough. Without a strong WHY the rest falls apart. Keep your eye on the prize!
10. Lean on your support system.
You most likely have loved ones, friends or co-workers that you can turn to in those times you need to decompress.
Do it. Don’t be shy about needing a break. Sometimes online classes can move very quickly. These siestas are needed and healthy.
These are going to be the people who encourage you along the way to stay strong and finish. These people believe in you and will be there for your graduation.
For me, I have a great wife and four wildly amazing kids. If I’m not careful with my time in the house, it’ll turn into an around the clock siesta. So, when I need to cool down, I talk with my bride or roll around on the floor (with the kids, of course;).
11. Have fun!
After all this administrative-sounding stuff it might be hard to imagine, but have fun! The more fun you conjure up, the more you will learn. That’s a scientific fact.
The human brain and body respond positively to laughter with the release of endorphin, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, and with increased breathing volume (more oxygen). When a lesson starts with humor, there is more alerting, and the subsequent information is attached to the positive emotional event as an event or flashbulb memory. Full Piece Here
Pick something you are passionate about.
Thoroughly forecast what is ahead.
Thoroughly review the degree plan of your desired major.
Carefully assess your personal schedule.
Watch your money.
Have all materials you’ll need before you start classes.
Determine your “class times”.
Get to work. Be yourself.
Don’t forget your WHY.
Lean on support system.
Remember what the ancient and wise advice of Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
There you have it. I hope this gets you off to a great start in preparing for your online studies journey.
Get these things in place and you’ll enjoy skipping the traffic as you hang out at home, in coffee shops, or on the beach while achieving your degree!
To Your Success!
Have a success story of your own?
Do you have other tips you can offer from your experience?
Leave a comment and tell us about it.