Online degrees have exploded in popularity in the past few years as many were introduced to how freeing and powerful remote learning (and working) could be. Online education offers many unique benefits. You don’t need to relocate, for example, which means that you can avoid housing and maintenance costs, particularly if you live with your parents or have a mortgage of your own. Similarly, you can often work around your degree, allowing many to continue to get the professional experience they need as they develop further technical and theoretical skills through the power of a degree.
Online degrees aren’t for everyone. You do need to be able to manage your time well and stick to your own pre-set goals. If you can do this, however, then an online degree can be just what you need to further your professional goals.
Online degrees are particularly useful for those working in roles that require formal qualifications. Nurses, social workers, engineers, lawyers – these are the types of roles that require you to have an active license, and part of earning said license is to have a degree from a recognized institution.
You can earn your Master’s in Social Work, for example, while assisting at a clinic in your chosen specialty. Just because you have the ability to juggle your work and your degree, however, does not mean that alone is how you will get the most out of your online degree. Similarly, if you are completing your online degree full-time, doing the bare-bones minimum isn’t going to be enough.
You deserve to get the most possible value out of your online degree, which means that you need to go beyond the scope of your curriculum and delve into the meat of what your institution offers.
There are many ways that you can improve your education, grow your network, and get more value out of your degree, even remotely and online. To help you get started, follow these practical tips:
How to Get the Most Out of Your Curriculum
There are several ways to get the most out of your curriculum and what you learn from it.
· Read All the Recommended Reading
One of the best ways to start is to engage with all the content that is provided to you. This includes the recommended reading lists that are not essential for your degree. These additional readings can help you understand concepts better.
· Work with Other Students to Co-Learn
Social learning is incredibly important. It is one of the primary reasons why many prefer in-person learning to online learning. While many universities have built tools and encourage students to engage with their peers online, it is up to you to go one step further. You can work together in a singular, cloud-based note-taking application, can work together or just vent out your frustrations on a chat, or hold group zoom calls. By making friends with those who are also studying in the same program, you can improve your ability to learn, grow your support network, and even kickstart your professional networking efforts.
· Write Notes and Explain to Yourself
When you create notes, the best thing that you can do is work to explain the content and concepts in a way you can easily understand. Unless you are sharing your notes with others, it doesn’t need to make sense to anyone but you. You can make extremely strange correlations in your notes – so long as it helps you genuinely understand and remember the concepts you need.
· Break Up Your Study Times
When it comes to learning, take it in short chunks or break up your study time with breaks. By breaking down when you learn or study, you give yourself time to absorb the information you take in. If you try to learn the same topic for hours at a time, your brain is going to skip over the content, and you will need to go back again and again.
Instead, break it up throughout the day. This way, you can stay productive, and you can learn and understand what you are learning more effectively.
How to Get the Most Out of the Community
Even though you won’t see most if any of your peers, you can still join the community. There are many excellent ways to socialize, meet others, grow your network, and even improve your resume when you reach out to others within your academic community.
How you get involved will differ from degree to institution. This is because the options don’t just exist within clubs and opportunities hosted by your university or college alone. There are many ways that an MSW student can get involved with their community, both amongst their peers and with the greater social worker community.
A MSW student, for example, can join various associations and organizations as a student. You can join your university’s Student Association of Social Work all the way to the National Association of Social Workers.
· Joint Associations, Clubs, and Organizations
Like in the example, there will be various online organizations and associations that you can join as a student. By joining these associations and organizations, you can expand your resource list and get started with establishing yourself within that professional sphere. Not only will you get access to key educational content, but you will be able to meet and engage with others in your community, both students and professionals alike.
Look for options hosted by your university and nationally. Many organizations have digitized for the modern era and now offer a host of resources and benefits for remote members.
· Stay Connected to Student Affairs
Student Affairs is a department run by your university and will organize events, fundraisers, and activities for students both on-campus and remote. You may be able to sit into video conferences or lectures outside of your degree, for example,
How to Get the Most Out of the Institution
Your institution should offer a wealth of resources. These resources will all help you with your degree and even your career. The first step is identifying what resources your institution offers and then using them as necessary.
· Download and Take Advantage of Institution Access for Digital Tools and Resources
One of the first resources you will want to take advantage of directly through your university is their institutional access. You may be able to download essential tools and resources for free or at least be able to enjoy a huge discount as a registered student. When it comes to getting the most out of your online degree, you will want the most sophisticated tools to make online and remote learning intuitive.
You will also often have IT services and support, so if you have any issue with your remote learning setup, know you have professionals on hand that can help you get you back up and running.
· Online/Off-Campus Library Access
Most journals and many books are available in digital format, meaning that you will be able to access all the content you need or are interested in as a student (and, in many cases, as an alumni). As a student, you will even have access to the Library’s Student Services. If you need help finding information, need something digitized that was only available as a hardcopy, need help with tutoring, and so on, simply get in touch. Library services tend to be the most helpful and most useful of all the available services available to you as a student.
· University Counseling Services
Managing a degree can be very stressful, especially if you have complications at home that you need to manage alongside your degree. Take advantage of the free mental health services. As a remote student, you will be able to book video calls or use one of the many digital resources available to help you manage your stress and improve your mental wellbeing as a whole.
· Careers Services
Every student and recent graduate needs to take advantage of the careers services. They can help improve your resume, can connect you with unique job or internship opportunities, and can help guide you through the process of making it to the first step of your career. Careers services can be invaluable, so get in touch with them before you graduate and stay in touch periodically as you establish your career.
Take Note of What Alumni Services You Have
Most institutions offer alumni access to various services. Most often, you will have continued access to the library services and also the careers services. Some institutions offer lifetime access. Others offer their alumni services for a certain period of time after you graduate. It is always worthwhile to stay up-to-date and involved in your alumni community. There are often talks, conferences, meet-and-greets, careers services, and more.
You can even give back later on in your career by offering to mentor others or working with your university to provide internship or traineeship positions to students or recent graduates. Alumni benefits change, so staying updated can make a huge difference in terms of the resources you have and, of course, how much value you continue to get out of your degree.