Getting Started with Online Learning

Starting an online degree program

The hardest part about being a runner is getting started. Once you’re out on the road, or the track, running is easy. Beginnings challenge us because we have to create momentum. Online learning is similar to running in many ways. Runners: You have the best shoes, clothing, and you even have a fancy watch. Online learners: You bought a new computer. Your internet access is in place. You’re ready. However, just like all the people who strive to become runners, online learners have to actually commit to the process. Here are a few tips on getting started with online learning:

Generating Momentum

Creating space for a new life process can be intimidating. For aspiring learners, making the plunge into an online degree program will often require a few lifestyle modifications. Work schedules, family responsibilities, inner motivation, financial concerns, and technological questions will need to be addressed. Ask yourself, what will it take for you to get started? What hurdles will you have to overcome? How will you generate momentum? Student services personnel that work with online learners can really be helpful as you make the transition into online learning. They can connect you with other students who are going through similar life routine changes. As I’ve mentioned before, community is vital to sustaining your inertia.

Try Before You Buy

Realize that it’s okay to have a couple “starts and stops.” With online learning programs, you really do have a lot of flexibility. In fact, some schools, like Kaplan University, have trial periods that let you try things out for a while. At Kaplan University, students can “take the first 5 weeks of class to decide if you will stay and pursue your studies—or withdraw without any financial obligation beyond the application fee.” If 5 weeks isn’t enough time to make up your mind, you probably need to have a conversation with your academic advisor. Fortunately, for students who decide to stay in their Kaplan class after the 5 week period, the class will count towards their degree program. With more than 200 degrees and programs, the odds are in your favor that you will find something that fits your career / life goals at Kaplan University.

Small Bites

My mom always told me not to bite off more than I could chew. With online learning, especially for new students, it is important to make sure you’re ready before you “go all in.” Fortunately, the University of Phoenix has a great option for those who are wanting to take “small bites.” Taking a single course can be a great introduction to what it is like to be a student, to be a Phoenix. According to their site, “if you’ve been out of school for a while, or are new to college or online learning, you might consider [the Associate course] format.”

The single most important tip that I would recommend for getting started with online learning is this:
Get started.

Access to education is at an all-time high. Remember, take it slow. Establishing yourself as an online learner may require you to make some life changes, but it will be worth it.

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