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How to make the most out of your online education

November 13, 2019

Is An Online Graduate Program Worth It?

One of the most common questions asked among students considering an online graduate degree is will the online experience be worth it?

If popularity is any indication, both the number of schools offering online graduate degrees as well as the number of students enrolling in these programs has been on a steady rise.

Computer, phone and other work items on a table

Satisfaction levels of online MBA programs appear to be quite high. Poets & Quants recently surveyed graduates of these programs and asked them whether they would recommend the program they completed to friends or relatives. On a scale of one to ten, with ten reflecting the best answer possible, graduates gave their programs an average score of 9.22. The survey also found high rates of satisfaction on many aspects of the programs from quality of the professors in the virtual classroom to the effectiveness of career advising in the program.

“While we cannot completely replicate an on-campus classroom experience, our online programs work hard to provide as much discussion and personal interaction among students and faculty as possible through a variety of technology including online message and discussion boards, video conferencing, and real-time group conversations,” says Eric Neuman, PhD, MBA program director and associate professor of Business at Creighton University Heider College of Business. “The high degree of flexibility our programs offer also allow students to attend on-campus classes when possible, which can help enhance the experience and create stronger relationships with classmates and professors.”

Online learning, however, can be challenging if you are not prepared to make the commitment and necessary adjustments in your lifestyle. Education experts recommend the following tips to help you get the most out of your online learning experience:

Be committed

Pursuing an online degree requires significant self-motivation, commitment and organization. The classes are only as good as the amount of work and interaction you are willing to put into them. The more buy-in you have and willingness to make it an important part of your life, the more enriching the experience is going to be.

Be an active participant

Recognize that even though the class is online, playing an active role in online chat rooms and classroom discussions is going to enhance your learning experience. “You’re not there to sit back, be passive and consume the information,” says Neuman. “You need to a part of creating a valuable and meaningful experience. Be in the moment. Think about how the information you’re digesting matters to you and your job now and in the future so you can go back to work and apply it to your current job.”

Engage with your classmates

Make an effort to get to know your fellow classmates, who they are, where they work and what they do. “They likely know things you don’t,” says Neuman. “Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from each other. We draw students from all over the Midwest, across the country and from different parts of the world.”

Online courses often encourage discussion and group collaboration to complete assignments. Be an active participant in discussion boards and group projects and when possible, consider coordinating in-person group meetings to enhance relationships and networking. At Creighton University, class sizes are small by design to allow for ample interaction. Don’t be afraid to invite classmates to participate in virtual study groups.

Get to know your instructors

Interact with your instructors. Communicate regularly with them by asking questions and sending emails. Be sure to know what’s expected of you and what to expect from your instructor. Ask for regular feedback to ensure you’re on the right track and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. If possible, schedule occasional in-person meetings to connect with your instructors on a more personal level. “Instructors at Creighton University want you to succeed and are there to help you in any way they can,” says Neuman.

Create a dedicated study space and study time

One of the advantages of online learning is that it can take place anywhere and anytime. However, identifying a dedicated study space and study time will help you concentrate, stay organized and maximize your time. Create a study schedule and try to stick to it so you’re not cramming before classes or tests. Planning ahead by keeping a calendar of important deadlines and exam dates with a weekly to-do list will help you stay on schedule and reduce unnecessary stress.