Congratulations! You have enrolled in school to obtain a degree and you are doing so entirely online. Now what? You want to succeed by learning as much as possible and earning top grades so that you can land a great job. Keep reading to hear our top ten tips for achieving great grades with your online learning.
#1 – Don’t Cheat
Sounds pretty basic, right? Well, here’s the deal… you are not the first person to study online and earn a degree. In fact, millions of students in the U.S. have been earning online degrees for the past two decades. And many of these students have tried just about everything to get ahead, including some things that are unethical. Schools have seen it all, so don’t think you are trying something new by copying someone else’s work or gaming the system. You’ll be caught, and possibly flunked (receiving zero credit for your work.) What’s worse, you could be expelled from school and even on the hook to still pay your tuition. When you cheat, you do not learn the material, either.
#2 – Check your work for Plagiarism
As we mentioned in our first tip, cheating is wrong and adds no value to your education or life. Sometimes when we write papers, we cite other sources or copy passages. To ensure that you are no copying someone else’s work verbatim or even Wikipedia, use a plagiarism checker. Why? Well, your instructor will regardless.
Schools and instructors have several tools that check for issues like plagiarism. You can check your work to make sure you are not copy/pasting someone else’s using a few online tools for free:
#3 – Watch all the Presentations and Videos
This may seem as obvious as our recommendation to not cheat. However, you’d be surprised to hear how many students admit to skipping a video or presentation from time-to-time. You may be pressed for time and feel that you just cannot complete all the material. However, there is a reason the material is part of your course. It is there to help you learn and you need to complete the videos and presentations.
Just pace yourself (we’ll have more on that in a moment.) There’s a good bit of knowledge in these videos, and you can usually stop and restart as you need. We don’t recommend viewing them right before you go to sleep at night, as you may not retain the knowledge as well, especially if you are very sleepy. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, a light (and healthy) snack, and knock those presentations and videos out.
#4 – Read the Chapters Assigned to you each Week
Completing your reading is as important as every other element of your coursework. However, not all of us are great readers, and let’s face it, sometimes course material can be a bit boring. It’s not exactly a Stephen King or E.L. James novel. However, your chapters hold key elements of your program – skills you will need to learn. It is important to not fall behind as it can be daunting to have to read 250 pages in a day if you wait until the last minute. This brings us to our next tip…
#5 – Pace Yourself
Pacing yourself is extremely important so that you do not fall behind and don’t stress yourself out by leaving too much work until the last minute. Cramming in the last minutes before an assignment is due typically leads to lower knowledge retention and mistakes. Therefore, our recommendation is to review the syllabus each week and understand how much work you will have to complete, including chapters to read, presentations and videos to watch, and assignments to complete. Some of these may take longer than you anticipated, so it is important to start as soon as possible to make progress throughout the week. One of our recommendations for ensuring you make progress is our next tip…
#6 – Set Goals
By setting multiple goals each week, you’ll be able to monitor your progress and have a sense of accomplishment as you peck away at larger assignments, complete challenging ones, or even just finish a few chapters of your textbook.
The famous American author, Mark Twain, once said that if your job is to eat a frog, it’s best to eat it first thing in the morning. The idea being is that eating a frog is not very desirable. So, if you get the least desirable part of your day out of the way first, the rest of your day (or week), will seem a lot easier! So in this spirit, get your hardest or least favorite part of your coursework completed first, earlier in the week. Save the easiest stuff for last.
#7 – Celebrate Wins, Even Small Ones
As you complete your work, read additional chapters, or watch videos, be sure to take breaks and celebrate your progress. We’re not talking about throwing a party here, save that for when you graduate with all “A’s”. What we are recommending doing, is that as you pace yourself and make progress by completing all your small and large goals each week, give yourself a pat on the back. Not everyone is working as hard as you to improve their lives, so it is important to continue believing in yourself but also reward yourself. That might be a snack, a walk, a little social media surfing, etc.
#8 – Ask for Help
Whenever you get stuck, ask for help. Here’s the catch though, don’t wait until the last minute. First, when you enroll in your online degree program, make sure you identify your support network at the school for things like obtaining tutoring services or technical support.
Next, if you follow our tips for pacing yourself, you won’t be waiting until the last minute. If you wait too long, it might be late at night before your assignment is due. At that point, there may be no time left to ask for help or clarification. Your school wants to see you succeed, so they are here to help you do so. But, you have to ask. Just reach out and ask, it’s part of the educational process.
#9 – Team Up
Joining a study group, even a virtual one that meets online via Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, etc., is a great option for meeting and collaborating with your classmates. Study groups can help you learn more effectively, as it is a great forum for asking for help and pitching ideas for programs and assignments.
In some cases, you may know someone locally that is in the same program. Even though you are both online students, meeting up at a cafe or library is a good way to promote healthy study skills and get help with assignments and motivation. If you cannot find a study group (in-person or online) to join, ask your instructor or school for help.
#10 – Review your Work
In the Olympics, sometimes gold medals are determined by a fraction of a second, less than an inch, or triple overtime. What separates the winners from the runner’s up is practice and attention to detail. With your studies, it is easy to just knock out an assignment or paper really quickly and move on, celebrating that win. But did you check for a typo or silly mistake? Perhaps your paper is really amazing, but you have a silly typo that will cause you to lose some points. That mistake could have easily been caught if you took a few extra minutes to review your work. Checking your work, proof-reading, and revisiting your answers to questions, can really be the polish on your assignment that moves you up to the top grade. It’s worth the investment of time.
You Can Do It!
So there you have it – our top ten tips for earning great grades when earning your degree online. Keep all these tips in mind and you will position yourself for success in class, in life, and in your new career.