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The 10 Best Practices to Complete An On-line Degree

The 10 Best Practices to Complete An On-line Degree
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Today technology has changed our lives from birth until we are ready to enter college and beyond. The internet has placed the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. Yet with the vast amount and access to the knowledge, the other on-line distractions have decreased our time to absorb and apply the wealth of information. Universities have done a wonderful job gathering knowledge and structuring it in an integrated way that is useful and practical. With our limited time to find and translate this mountain of information into workable knowledge, we can use what universities have done for us, and capitalize on the on-line medium. This on-line model is fundamentally changing the way we learn and acquire knowledge and earn degrees. As this trend catches up with prospective students looking to maximize their time by balancing work and study, the on-line model offers the best opportunity for success. The continuous growth of on-line learning is still in its infancy and we should expect the explosion of on-line degree offerings to continue.

If you are an on-line student, or consider becoming one, here are the 10 best practices to help contribute to your success and help you complete your on-line degree:

1. Choose a degree that fits your passion

Draw from your experience and imagine yourself in a field or program that can ignite your passion. Then, search out such opportunities within your institutions or universities’ boundaries. You will be amazed at what you can discover.

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Here are questions you should ask yourself when you are choosing a degree: Do you have passion for the degree, maybe not about all the subjects, but for the job, it will prepare you to do? Does the university’s style, approach and accessibility align well with who you are? Do you have a good chance of completing the degree so you can build your own knowledge brand and make you more sought-after?

Knowledge from the topic studied is important, but the degree is what says, “I am marketable”. The degree completion shows others that you are persistent and not a quitter. Knowledge from the topics studied is important, too. The combined set of subject knowledge and application provides both breadth and depth for this field of study.

2. Begin with the end in mind

When planning to embark on your on-line studies, it is essential to start with the end in mind. You should start by asking what you want from this pursuit. Will you stick to schedule and follow the program to completion? Do you have enough capital? Can you arrange financing?

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You need to think over these questions to lay down a good foundation. Understanding this will enable you to work through the study process more efficiently. Today, the Internet provides the opportunity to browse through dozens of web-based portals dedicated to educational grants and financing and the avenues to access and apply what suits you best. Do not be discouraged by the array of requirements. By digging deeper, you will likely come across other great opportunities.

3. Be flexible

On-line education delivers knowledge without the constraint of time or place, thereby; students have the adaptability needed to plan their daily schedule properly. Make sure you do well with flexibility and that it will not keep you from being successful.

4. Plan and prioritize

To stay connected to the learning community is paramount. Your interaction level builds confidence in on-line learning. Building a student-instructor relationship that is akin to classroom learning is important. Become known by class mates, and get to know their strengths and weaknesses. This provides a deeper sense of belonging to the on-line class community.

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5. Block your time

Once you have planned and prioritized your success path, it is important to block your time to perform all you need to do to be successful. Going to school is hard work and you should treat it the same way you would treat a job. There are certain hours you need to invest and you should expect to get a return on your investment, which in this case, is through the course grade.

6. Develop great study skills

You should have or create a study guide that encompasses critical thinking and writing skills. Find people who have been successful at studying and learn from them. Look for patterns of what others have done and match those that work with your style and preferences. In addition, you will be working with different information sources, so accessing and appropriately citing the various types found, will help you use these “experts” to contribute to your knowledge.

7. Stay Focused

The work and effort a student puts the on-line classes determines the quality of the learning experience. How well they read the material, how prepared they are to engage in classroom discussions are important factors to the quality of the learning experience. Do not let the unimportant and urgent stuff distract you from the important, urgent and non-urgent stuff. It is your focus that will keep this in check.

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8. Get an accountability coach

Most of us have the belief that we can do it all, and we own our own success. Asking for help has a stigma of weakness or laziness which has been drummed into us since we were children. We are held accountable for our successes. This does not mean we have to do it alone. Find someone who is relentless and invested in your success to help keep you on track. Often, that other person needs some of the same prodding to stay on the course of success that you can offer. You can repay the favor by being an accountability coach for them as well. The trick is to communicate as frequently as possible without it feeling like micromanaging or taking more time to check-in than it does to complete the real work.

9. Apply your knowledge

We often compartmentalize our time and see a strong divide between work, life and school. Once you realize that all the compartments can benefit each other and start applying what you learn in school to your work and freetime, the faster the schoolwork will take on meaning. The reverse is true as well. Taking the time to tackle the challenges from work and freetime using your schoolwork can create an integrated system for solutions.

10. Use technology

Being familiar with computer technology is essential to undertaking on-line classes. The ability for you to use the course management system comes into play. Thus ensure that you can easily navigate and improve on your computer skills overtime. In on-line learning, developing ways to do more with less complements is a factor in working toward a desired on-line degree. Becoming skillful in using computer technology to search, evaluate and produce the content needed to show your competence faster and better is your differentiator in your field. This “working smarter, not harder” is a practice that will be equally important once you have completed your degree.

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In the end, convenience and flexibility-factors will prove handy giving students the lasting satisfaction to lay the roadmap to the completion of their on-line degree program. Balancing family life and work at the same time makes the whole experience worthwhile. However, having more interaction with fellow classmates and creating a network can help to engage actively in the on-line learning community. Do not put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.

More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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