7 Strategies to Stay Motivated in an Online College

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I earned a Bachelor’s degree online while working full-time.

The online university was a very fast-paced learning environment but took me only 3 years to complete the program. (note: I transferred 49 credits from my previous college) And also, it was much more affordable compared to other universities. (the United States is one of the world’s most popular destinations for higher education as well as one of the most expensive.)

Going to an affordable online university was the right decision for me, but it is not an ideal option for everyone. Before you start an online university, I would suggest you review the program carefully and be honest with your level of focus and commitment.

In this post, I’ll share how online classes work and how I stay motivated until graduation.

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DISCLOSURE: This information is based on MY online university and experience. Each online school has its own curriculum and teaching style. Please read my full disclaimer here for more info.

How Do Online Classes Work?

In my online college, most of the classes didn’t have video lectures.

StudenStudents typically had to do a discussion on the online board. To show participation, all the students need to respond to someone every week. Other work may include papers, individual or group projects, presentations, and assessments. You can do each week’s assignments on your schedule, turning them in at specified deadlines throughout the week. (usually, it’s Thursday and Sunday nights)

For presentations, you needed to film yourself using the iPhone or webcam. For individual projects, you needed to record your voice using web-based software to explain your work. There will be instructions for web-based software, but you need to download & set it up by yourself. I learned tons of useful free web-based software from an online college.

Here is an example of every week’s assignments:

  • Post to the discussion forum
  • Respond to two peers on the discussion forum
  • Reading assignment/Quiz
  • 4-5 pages essay

Here is an example of weekly schedule as an online student:

  • Monday: Review the learning objectives and materials.
  • Tuesday: Continue reviewing materials.
  • Wednesday: Post to the discussion forum and begin writing an essay.
  • Thursday: (discussion forum deadline) Continue working on an essay and begin reading assignments.
  • Friday: Respond to peer’s posts and finish reading assignments/quiz.
  • Saturday: Finish an essay.
  • Sunday: (Reading assignments/quiz & essay deadline) Review an essay and submit it to the instructor.

There are no set classroom times within an online degree program, and students have the flexibility to create their own schedules. However, online degrees don’t allow room for procrastination. They require a student to be incredibly diligent in order to be successful.

In other words, online courses require a lot of patience and commitment as well as self-motivation.

7 Strategies to Stay Motivated in an Online College

I felt overwhelming pressure to get things done even though the flexibility of distance learning makes it ideal for those with work and family responsibilities.

Here are 7 strategies (that worked for me!) you can adopt to ensure that you meet the challenges of school, no matter how busy your life may be.

#1 Create Realistic Plan

Making a plan is an important part of being an adult learner. Most adult learner has full-time job. Some people take many classes at once to complete the program as soon as possible.

But you should be completely honest with yourself about your level of focus and commitment. Balancing work and study at the same time is not that easy. To earn a bachelor’s degree while working, you need to set a realistic plan.

For example, I took 1 or 2 classes each term. It was a realistic plan for my lifestyle because I had a full-time job and family responsibilities too.

I used excel to create a plan. The original plan was to take 2 classes each term, but I couldn’t do it. Sometimes I had a financial problem, family emergency, business trip, etc. And, it’s ok to change the plan. “Complete the program” is the most important thing.

#2 Visualize the Outcome

If people can’t see the end, it feels like things never end.

To maintain your motivation, visualize the outcome. List up all the classes you need to take. When you complete the classes, cross out. In that way, you can keep track of your progress. There will be no classmates or instructors near you. You are the only one who motivates yourself.

Again, I used excel to track my progress!

Note: Usually, the online university has an online academic advisor and they will suggest some classes for next term. But I highly recommend reading academic course catalogs and understanding what class you need to take for your degree. You are not the only student that academic advisors manage. Sometimes academic advisors make mistakes, and then you take unnecessary classes for your program. It can waste your time and money.

#3 Prepare Well

Online courses allow you to set your own schedule but you need to meet a deadline. A good approach is to break tasks down into small components and create deadlines for each one.

People often underestimate how long it takes to complete projects, so the deadline you’ve been set would be unrealistic. Do not hope for the best, finish ahead of schedule.

“Hope” won’t save you. “Ahead” will save you.

I also considered the combination of classes to take. For instance, I did not register the history class and research class at the same time. To avoid missing the deadline, I did not take classes together that require tons of reading and writing.

#4 Allow for Problems

Nobody is perfect. Things don’t always go to plan. Despite all your hard work, you might still miss a deadline. If this happens, keep calm and make every effort to limit the damage. (in this case, the damage is poor grades) Consider what can you do to minimize the impact. For example, finish and submit your work even though you missed the deadlines. You would get some points for those assignments.

#5 Reward Yourself

Celebrate the little achievements!

If you reach your weekly goal, you should treat yourself to brunch over the weekend, get fancy Starbucks coffee, eat some cakes, sleep all day long, etc. What makes you happy?

I traveled to Hawaii during the summer vacation. Of course, I had to do homework, but feel so much better studying with a nice ocean view.

#6 Social Media Detox

Feeling overwhelmed or getting behind can cause stress. To prevent emotional exhaustion, I quit using Facebook. It really depends on the person, but in my case, Digital Detox work. Stop using Facebook created a better work-life balance. I spent more time with my family instead of scrolling smartphone.

#7 Stay Positive

I know staying positive is not easy when you are balancing multiple responsibilities, but positive thinking helps with stress management.

In most cases, being positive is your choice.

Surrounding yourself with positive people will help you stay positive when you are in a negative situation. There are a lot of negative people out there, avoid them. If you don’t have positive people around you, find motivational quotes online. Write it down or print it out and put it somewhere you can see it daily.

And also, exercise is good for our bodies and minds. Getting out there and moving around will keep your body in better shape, as well as boost your energy.

Wrapping Up

Online programs aren’t built for everyone, but there are a lot of benefits for sure. Please share your thought below or mention me on Twitter. I would love to hear your thought about online college.

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