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Succeeding in Online School

Updated on February 15, 2018
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MacDonald is a scholar, practitioner, and leader in the healthcare industry for over thirty years and is passionate about lifelong education

Succeeding in Online School

What does it take to succeed in Online Schooling System (OSS)? Three things, clarity of goal, focus on objectives, and flexibility around topics.

I did not have much time to research OSS when I enrolled in college six years ago; so, I had very little to base any expectations. Nevertheless, I was technically savvy; having used the computer and Internet since the early 1990s for various activities including writing documents, sending and receiving emails, and doing research for my work. Also, I was willing to learn; I kept an open mind.

I jumped in

In mid-2010, I enrolled in a 100% Online Schooling System and embarked on a journey in tertiary education with no experience of online schooling. I experienced a mix of excitement and apprehension all at the same time, thinking, what have I done? Will I make it? What if other students know something I don’t know? Although technically savvy, there were things I just could not figure out. For example, how do you access books? How are assignments handled? Are we using an email system for communicating with the professors? Is it hard or easy to use the school system? Do I have what it takes? Do I need specialized training to succeed in OSS?

Pleasantly surprised

Once I opened my school website, I was pleasantly surprised to find order and clear guidance all the way to my classroom. Most of my fears were completely unfounded. It was evident that those who designed the learning environment knew what they were dealing with; apprehensive and frightened individuals whose only desire is to succeed. After six years, I can say, the journey has been exciting and rewarding. I have gained experience and some insights that I wish to share.
Online schooling is for me! I love every second of my journey in school. There were times I wished I was in a group in ground classes; however, that was not because I could not use the OSS. The reason I suddenly felt the need for the traditional approach was that I just could not understand a principle or concept; this happened a few times when I studied Accounting. There was a time when I just could not explain how figures were appearing in the calculations. That experience helped me to understand that the best way to learn is not always through having people around you; but to search and solve problems by other means including YouTube presentations, libraries, and sheer imagination or creativity. I say creativity because from there, I often found the path to a solution to a problem.

Beauty of OSS

I can go to class at any time and anywhere as long as I can find Internet connectivity. It is much easier with Wi-Fi in many places around the country. I went to class while staying in a hotel in a foreign country; in a rural Africa hospital where I used a shared line and waited until midnight for good Internet connection.
There is no way I would have made it successfully through school without the Internet connection. If I was helping others wishing to enroll in Online school, the first and obvious advice is to be sure you know how to use a computer; how to browse the Internet; and how to create and save documents on your computer and send emails.

Clarity of Goal

So, you want to earn an Associate’s, a bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doctoral degree? That is a good goal. Do you know how long the course takes in this mode of learning? Have you seen the success statistics for OSS for your school? Clarity of purpose or goal is the most critical question a candidate must answer before sending that enrollment note. By looking carefully at the time involved, you will equip yourself with the mindset to succeed. Two years or four years go very quickly once you enroll. For sure there will be challenges along the way, but there can be no substitute for personal success at something you set out to do by yourself. My college had an appalling rate of 11% success among students who enrolled in college. That means 89 out of 100 who registered in OSS quit along the way. I don’t know why they left, but, I told myself, that is not me. I do not give up so easily; I am not in the 89% group. On the wall in front of my desktop computer, the number 11 appears as a 1 with the other one crossed out; my daily reminder of where I truly belong. I tell myself I belong to the 1%. Not only will I make it all the way, but I will also do so with honors.

Focus on Objectives

Once the game of school is on, it is time to break large goals into smaller objectives. In my school, I take one class at a time. That allows me to focus entirely on one course, a singular purpose and time frame of up to two months (one month for courses in the bachelor's degree; six weeks for the master's degree and two months at the doctoral level). The course is divided into weeks based on readings, research topics, and assignments. I did not allow myself to over-plan. Over-planning might lead me to disappointment. I permitted spaces of time to complete tasks according to my own best scheduling. The most important thing is to understand what the subject or course is all about. I remember studying Introduction to Sociology and giving myself excess time, in the beginning, to grasp the direction of the course. Once I was clear about the underlying pillars of a class I allowed myself to relax and reorganize my schedule for more relaxation.

Flexibility around Topics

To succeed at OSS, I have learned to be extra flexible. Flexibility refers to the capacity to do more with time by multi-tasking and holding positions that promote excellence. A student must be committed to excellence; the weekly goal is to achieve 100% or A grade and ultimately A grade when the coursework is added up. That means working through different courses that may be structured differently.


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