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Five Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as an Online Student

Taking educational courses online is becoming more commonplace.  High schools, community and technical colleges, and higher educational institutions all offer classes or even entire degrees or certificates online.

Young woman sitting at desk using laptop, in student dormitory

The convenience offered by online courses is one of the things that draws many students to this type of learning environment.  The ease of working around a personal or work schedule is valuable, but there are potential pitfalls that it’s important to be aware of.  Before enrolling in an online course or degree, consider whether or not your personality and learning style lends itself to this type of classroom environment.

Pursuing a Sonography Degree Online

Whether you are completing an online continuing medical education course towards maintaining your ARDMS credential, taking an online biology course to better prepare for an allied health program or completing an entire online degree, the convenience of completing an education online is attractive to many.

Many courses, though, do not lend themselves to online learning. Medical imaging and diagnostic medical sonography require hands-on learning. The clinical setting required by default makes a course taken at home, over the computer, not beneficial to the education of the student.

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), the major accrediting body for medical imaging programs, has given their award of accreditation to only three online programs nationwide.  These programs have been able to successfully balance the online learning environment with the clinical, didactic learning that is required to be a successful sonographer.

“Online classes may offer a lot more leeway in terms of time, flexibility and freedom but those advantages don’t also mean they will make the class easier,” says Business 2 Community’s Peter Kim. “Online college courses are actually designed to prepare students to be more independent, both with the technologies they will encounter and the expectations that their job and the industry will have for them when they enter the workforce. So online college courses shouldn’t be seen as an easy way to get an A on your record. They really should be viewed as a job that requires attention to detail, an open learning environment and a willingness to face new ideas and concepts in an ever changing world.”

It’s important to have the determined personality and self discipline that online learning requires, and to avoid these 5 common mistakes.

1. Technical Difficulties

It’s not unheard of that some online students will turn on their computer just minutes before their class’ first scheduled discussion, not yet familiar with the online platform. Some students get frustrated and might even decide to drop the class.

Make sure to familiarize with how to login and navigate around the virtual classroom well ahead of time. This may require contacting your school or professor, via e-mail or telephone, for further instruction.

Also ensure you have access to a reliable computer equipped with all the necessary configurations. Your program should list the necessary computer specifications for each course – browser versions, operating systems, and which programs you’ll need

2. Time Management Issues

While online courses often offer a high level of flexibility, this does not mean you still do not have assignments to complete and tests to write. One of the biggest mistakes an online student can make is assuming you have all the time in the world to finish assignments.  Waiting until the last minute can create stress, and ultimately a completed assignment that is not your best work.

As an online student, you have to be even more disciplined. While some online instructors will create a schedule for you when assignments and readings should be completed, others won’t. Set your own schedule (based on a predetermined completion date either set by the school or yourself), and stick to it! Learning now to combat procrastination will benefit you in your immediate coursework, and the effect can carry-over to every day life.

3. Not Participating

It is very tempting for some students to feel like they can slack off and just observe (or even ignore) online class discussions. Participation in some form is typically required by professors, and those that make this mistake miss out on being able to participate in a forum that is often easier to express oneself compared to a large lecture hall.

Education is about discourse and what better way to feel comfortable doing so than in a quasi-anonymous fashion. Another mistake online students make is never interacting with their professor. If you are having difficulty understanding a topic or an assignment, contact your instructor during their virtual office hours, via e-mail, phone or even arrange to meet them in person.

4. Tempting Distractions

Some online students make the mistake thinking that they can get away with a lot more while completing courses on their personal computer. They may watch television, be instant messaging a friend or even having friends over during a scheduled discussion or class. Of course it is tempting because it is easy to get away with.

These distractions can also hamper you completing assignments that you are working on independently. Not completely maintaining focus on your online college course during the scheduled time, can result in simple mistakes being made that affect your final grade.

5. Internet Slang

While each online class is different, many of them include an online discussion forum shared between students and the professor, such as a message board or even a live virtual lecture that includes a chat function. It might not look that impressive if you type “lol” or “u” instead of “you” in such an educational setting.

Treat all discussions as if you were being evaluated for marks (and you may be if participation is counted into the grade). Write in full sentences with proper grammar and spelling and use a respectful tone.

Online courses can be a valuable tool to today’s busy student. Treat them with the respect that you would any other course, focus and work hard, and you will have a better chance of achieving the grade or degree that you’re working towards.

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