What to consider before studying online
As our lives get busier and digital communication gets better, online university study is becoming commonplace. Today millions of students all over the world complete university courses online and course providers offer sophisticated digital study experiences.
Online study opens up a world of possibilities for in-demand people who need a more flexible timetable. When you study online the classroom comes to you, your lectures can be listened to in pyjamas, and it’s easier to fit study around other commitments. Thinking about studying online? Here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge.
Check your motivation
Establishing why you want to study will help you decide how to invest your time and adjust your lifestyle to make room for education. Do you want higher earning potential, improved job opportunities, new transferable skills, a fresh career direction or to progress in your existing career?
Study is going to take time and energy – when things get hard, you will need the motivation to keep going. Knowing your reasons for study and reminding yourself of them will make it that bit easier to achieve your goals.
Consider your personal preferences
Before you enrol in an online course, consider whether this style of study is going to suit you. Although you will have contact with students and academics in online discussions, most of your study will be completed independently. If you prefer the immediacy of face-to-face interaction while studying, then on-campus study might be more up your alley. But if you’re happy to work solo and communicate virtually, online study is a fantastic option.
Plan your time
Many online students fit in study around work and family commitments. The most successful students carefully plan out their workload ahead of time to make this possible. Before signing up to a course, find out the number of hours of study expected per week and any other time-intensive commitments, such as major projects. Make a draft schedule for your course, and see how it sits with the rest of your commitments.
Talk to your workplace about the flexibility they can offer. Can you work part time? Can you take a week off each trimester for exams? If study will ultimately make you a more valuable employee, they may be keen to support you. If you have kids, what sort of support can you get for childcare and when?
Finally, check out where you stand in terms of credit for prior learning or work experience. If you apply, you might be credited for some units of study. This will mean you can complete the course faster. Find out how the credit application process works, as it may be additional to your application for the course.
Organise your finances
Investing in further study is an expense that pays off in the long term. In the short term however, you will need cover the costs if you’re working fewer hours, as well as pay for course materials and tuition fees. Before starting a course, it’s crucial to plan your finances with a detailed budget for living and study.
Find out the costs involved and then look into the financial support that’s available to you. Options for support include government loans and financial assistance, employer assistance and scholarships.
Check you’re equipped
It may sound obvious, but to study online you will need a reliable internet connection and a computer. If you don’t have access to these things, completing assignments and interacting in classes will be difficult. If you’re not super confident with technology, don’t worry. Universities offer technical support and orientation, plus easy-to-use tools, to make studying online possible for everyone.
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