What do you value? For those of you considering or already pursuing a degree online, it would seem that you must value advancing your education since you’ve chosen to devote a good bit of your time, arguably your most precious resource, to your studies.
But how much time are we talking about? It is generally expected that online students spend eight to 12 hours per course per week per term (11 or more weeks). That’s 100 to 200 hours—think of what you could do with that time! That’s about how long it would take you to:
- make 50 loaves of bread;
- run 900 miles;
- or read The Great Gatsby 57 times (or the Game of Thrones series twice).
For the time—and not to mention money—you are investing in your courses, are you approaching them with every intention of wringing out every last ounce of value? If no, why the heck not? Here are some ways to make your decision to spend your time learning online work best for you.
1. Make it personal. Most instructors will let you know in the syllabus or by the first week what ideas and information you will learn. Now ask yourself how that information will make a difference to you. (Hint: There is always a connection.) Perhaps you don’t think that psychology matters to your work as an accountant—but don’t you have to deal with a boss or clients, perhaps people of different ages, cultures, or ways of thinking? Some basic psychology concepts may help. Do you think statistics is boring and irrelevant? How about the next time you are making a medical decision with a 1 in 10,000 chance of complications or sitting on a jury while a prosecutor or defender attempts to sway you with statistics?
2. Make it meaningful. Be active in your class—your instructors and peers are excellent resources. Ask about course material, and, like mentioned above, what it means for your industry, your career, your world. The more you work with the concepts and skills in the course, the better questions you will ask—and the better answers you get. For example: The question “Why does biology matter to me?” might be more effective if it was more specific like “How does understanding genetics help me make healthier decisions at the grocery store?”
3. Make projects matter. Several classes will ask you to choose a topic, pick a project, or present on something—make this count for you! Pick a project that relates to something you might be experiencing in your job or a company you would like to work for. This isn’t “cheating.” It’s making your education work for your needs. And if you cannot come up with a good topic, talk with your instructor (“here’s what I am doing/want to do, what would you recommend I work on?”). Even if the choice is not there, it can’t hurt to ask to pursue a different topic if you have one you would value exploring.
4. Make connections. You will likely take classes from people with industry experience and connections. Get to know them and have them get to know you. Your classmates will likely show up in future classes, and if they are classes in your area of interest, you may also run into them in your career.
As 1980 gold medal-winning U. S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks once said, “This is your time.” Make the most of it.