As we begin new courses and a new semester—and I say “we” because I recently began my master’s program at JWU—let us remember that success comes with proper preparation, time-management, and focus. A lot of focus.
If you’re worried about starting your courses online, don’t be! Read the following advice from my JWU Online colleagues, all of whom completed one of their degrees online. You got this, wildcat!
“What helped me was to create a calendar with intentional days that are for studying only.”
—David Cartwright, Dean of the College of Online Education
“My best piece of advice is to get ahead early in the course, so that if something happens, you have buffer time to get your work done. Our courses open three days early and that’s a great time to hit the ground running. I used to work like crazy for the first week of class to get through the entire first week and most of the second, so that I was then working ahead for the rest of the class. This always gave me great satisfaction for the rest of the class, as I didn’t feel rushed for the rest of it. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to the instructor with questions. As I am now an online instructor and don’t get to see my students in person, I love when they reach out and I am able to assist them. A final tip is not to check the discussion board too often. I started out checking the discussion boards in my classes multiple times each day to see if anyone responded to me, what the others had to say, etc., and I drove myself crazy. Set up a schedule for checking it and participating in discussions to keep it manageable.”
—Amy Ricci, Ed.D., Director of Online Education
“Find your tribe. A lot of people assume that learning online is a lonely, isolated experience and that you can’t possibly get to know your classmates. In fact, the opposite is true! During my online master’s program, I made amazing connections with my fellow classmates, and even after graduation we’ve stayed in touch. We helped encourage each other while in school, and now we share what’s going on in our careers and bounce ideas off of each other. We stay connected on Facebook (JWU Online has a undergrad and graduate page!), but it doesn’t have to be super organized: You may find that you have classes with a few of the same students over and over again. Reach out and get to know them! Sign up for group work together. Connect on LinkedIn. Your online experience will be so much richer and rewarding if you do—plus, you’ll have someone to celebrate with at commencement!”
—Shannon Hatch, Manager of Online Communications
“Have a mantra. Mine was something like, 'other people do this successfully all the time.' If it works for them, I knew it could work for me; it was just a matter of discipline. One of my motivating factors was to get done quickly so that I could get back to my life! I used a whiteboard to keep track of my assignments in my office at home. I taped little pictures of my son and I doing fun stuff on the side of the whiteboard as a reminder that the reward for finishing the program was more time for fun things. I put most 'social life' stuff on a temporary hold, took advantage of any and all conveniences (like online grocery shopping), got up earlier to work on assignments when the house was quiet, and spent the weekend at my mom’s so that she could spend time with my son while I wrote papers.”
—Lisa Caroselli, Manager of Online Enrollment Systems
"Break your discussion posts down to its individual parts and you’ll nail your initial post every time! Most initial discussion board posts need to be 500-750 words, include proof that you reviewed the week’s materials, and include some kind of personal experience related to the topic. Your formula would look like this: (Intro addressing the topic + citations/outside resources and supporting text + personal experience to the topic + conclusion). Add in perfect punctuation, grammar, and citations and you’ll have a perfect initial discussion board post!”
—Ricky Carchedi, Director of Online Admissions
“Adopt some sort of calendar system – on your phone, computer, or purchase a physical calendar – and put everything you will need to get done each week there. Schedule reminders and notifications as well. You will actually need them. Online learning can be a bit isolating; if you feel disconnected from your peers, be assertive and self-advocate as often as possible. Meaning, generate conversations outside the discussion board by exchanging emails/ phone numbers with peers whose work you find interesting and/or that aligns with your own. Respond to more than two peers on the board when you can. They, and your instructor, will take note of your hard work.”
—Kellie Nappa, Online Student Writing Support Specialist
“Be proactive! If you have questions, don’t be too shy to reach out to the professor. Also, plan! Decide what days and times you are going to do your work and stick to them. In addition, be prepared for life to happen. Fun things will pop up, like dinner with friends, birthday parties, etc. You need to plan to keep a healthy work-life-school balance.”
—Lyndsy Tainsh, Online Admissions & Training Specialist
“Enter all the due dates for assignments in the calendar on your phone and set reminders at least a day in advance of when anything is due. Set aside time each day to check in on the course, even if it is just five minutes to look over the to-do list for the week. If you have a question, ask! If the course has a questions forum, use it or email your professor directly. Also, let your friends and family know in advance that you are working on a degree and may not be as available as you have been. I liked to post on Facebook the second-to-last week of a semester and say something like, ‘I love you all but I am going into finals so please don't reach out right now unless it’s an emergency. I will let you know when I have come back up for air.’”
—Heather Meyers, Online Instructional Designer
Reach out today to learn how you can start on your degree: call 855-JWU-1881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also fill out the “Request Info” form on this page.