It is daunting returning to school as an adult especially when navigating the relatively new academic frontier of online education. Although textbooks and a syllabus may still be familiar, compressing traditional semesters into eight-week segments might be a new obstacle that may trip up newcomers.
Most students find they need to hone their time management skills in order to adjust to the eight-week lifecycle of an online graduate level course. Read on for a compilation of additional tips from students who have learned to successfully complete these accelerated courses.
1. Order Books Early
As soon as you receive the reading list, order the books—preferably the same day. You want to get the books and begin the reading as soon as you can. Used copies of books tend to sell out quickly, so that may be a financial incentive to treat it as a priority.
2. Read the Entire Syllabus
Read the syllabus as soon as it becomes available. Do not wait until the first day of class to read the syllabus. Look for it on your Saint Joseph’s University email as well as the website (on the Blackboard) as soon as possible. Print it out so you have it on hand throughout the course.
3. Plug in Deadline Dates
After you read the syllabus and the course content, enter all deadline dates into whatever online calendar system you use. Some people may prefer a paper calendar or online personal calendar. I prefer to enter all my school deadlines and personal appointments into my work calendar for an all-in-one view. Review your business deadlines, travel plans, and personal appointments in relation to your school deliverables dates.
4. Connect SJU Email to Work Email
There is an easy way to have all your SJU emails forwarded to another email address. This saves you from having to log on to the SJU web site daily (if not several times a day). I have mine forwarded to my work email so that I have real-time reading of all school updates on either my office computer or my work iPhone seven days a week.
5. Complete the Reading
Some students try to scrimp on the reading. Think of reading like marinating meat. You can throw some sauce on the meat and cook it, or you can plan to let the meat sit slowly absorb the flavors. Your meal is much tastier when you marinate and the learning is equally more meaningful when you complete all the reading.
6. Make a Class Friend
Strike up a friendship with a class colleague and exchange cell numbers and/or email contact information. Having someone else help to keep you on your toes will deter you from falling behind. A class friend can really be beneficial in these time-sensitive courses.
7. Use Your Allies
Just like friends, allies can be integral to your successfully navigating eight-week graduate level courses. One ally is your corporate or medical librarian. Most teaching hospitals, for example, perform research and have academic libraries. These librarians are looking to help increase the amount of research done as well as degrees achieved by employees. My librarian happily does a peer-reviewed research literature search for me on topics I request. I get the PDF files sent to my email for easy reading and printing (and citing).
8. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is a common downfall of students of all ages. Don’t let it happen to you. While procrastinating during a traditional semester course can be challenging to bounce back from, it is almost impossible in an eight-week course. By using the time management tips listed, you will be able to avoid procrastination and have a meaningful graduate level class experience in a mere eight weeks!
These are just my eight tips to help you keep pace with the demands of earning an online master’s degree at SJU. As you will see, many other students have taken time to share their suggestions and insights.
Do yourself a favor and explore some additional student blogs. As you will see, your classmates are more than happy to help.