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The Secret to Success in the Online Classroom: Passion and Perseverance

by Wendy Schmidt and Mary Cluff

Have you been thinking of going to college online? At first glance, the answer might be yes because, after all, modern life is crazy busy, and being able to do it between commuting to work and cooking dinner sounds pretty darn ideal. However, it is a little more challenging than it looks. Is an online classroom right for you?

  • What is your focus level?

Online students must be able to keep a schedule but also know how to stay focused on class requirements. Can you turn off your notifications? Ignore video games? Sign out of social media sites? Do you feel you can instead hang out in a virtual library? Work your way through a PowerPoint presentation? Listen to an archived lecture from your professor? Engage in a discussion board?

  • Are you a planner?
Photo by <a href="">Matt Ragland</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

(Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash)

Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said, "If I had 60 minutes to cut down a tree, I would spend 40 minutes sharpening the ax and 20 minutes cutting it down." As an online student, you will be in the classroom at least five days a week. This is where planning comes in. You must take time to make time. Planning is the difference between being reactive and proactive. When you don't plan, you end up responding to the day's events as they occur. But the proactive student crafts a schedule complete with due dates, exam dates, assignments, quizzes, even reading and writing requirements, and they do it with other obligations in mind, e.g. jobs and family demands. Such scheduling also helps with taking advantage of opportunities. For example, the proactive student who carpools to work may do some reading during the drive. 

  • What is important to you?

Along with planning comes prioritizing. To manage your time well, it’s critical to make wise choices when you set priorities; but that can be a major challenge, especially when everything seems like a top priority. Each person, however, has a foundational understanding of what is important to them. The college student has determined that school is valuable and thus must be willing to sacrifice things they may want in the short term, like a movie night, for things they want in the long term, like a degree.

  • Do you like to write and are you comfortable with technology?

The online classroom is the intersection of both! Almost every class has discussion boards where robust conversations unfold, and, as such, you’ll do a lot of writing and a lot of posting to the discussions. This is in addition to the regular reports and research papers you’ll write. Many classes will also require team assignments, and communicating with others on your team may be through texting or emailing because everyone has different schedules and lives in different time zones. Alternately, you may do group chats, conference calls, or zoom meetings with peers and instructors alike.

  • Do you have passion? Do you have perseverance?

In high school, you knew you were expected to show up at 8:00 AM for 1st period. On-ground college classes work the same way. But online? Online, you have the freedom to show up whenever you want, but that also means that you bear the sole responsibility of showing up at all. While there are many components to a successful online experience in education, this might be the most important: that you show up with passion and perseverance, that you want to learn, and that you will not let anything stand in your way. Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

An education is nothing more than formalized learning in a classroom and can be, at its heart, a gift we give ourselves. Are you ready?!