Five online learning traps to avoid

Five online learning roadblocks and how to avoid them

Lauren Regenhardt thought that she wouldn't have to work as hard in her online graduate courses as she did with her previous undergraduate on-campus courses. She couldn't have been more wrong.

"My mindset was that since it's all online, the professors wouldn't be as heartfelt and involved," said Regenhardt, who's pursuing an online master's degree in library science through San Jose State University. "I thought, 'Why would they care about my quality of work?' Big mistake."

After failing her first class, Regenhardt changed her mindset and began to work through her struggles. Here are five online learning roadblocks Regenhardt has faced and how to deal with them.

1.) Procrastination

Procrastination is even more difficult for online students than on-campus students, since there are no teachers in-person reminding you of assignments and motivating you. The way Regenhardt deals with procrastination is by leaving her house, since most of the distractions (Internet, phone, television) are at her house.

"The change in environment helps motivate me and to keep the distractions away," Regenhardt said. "At home, there are too many enticing things to do -- things other than homework."

Regenhardt goes to Starbucks to help her focus. She recommends other online students go somewhere that takes away distractions and fosters productivity.

2.) Isolation

It can be easy to feel isolated as an online student, since in-person interaction with other students doesn't happen often, or sometimes at all. For Regenhardt, however, this isn't a problem, since she takes advantage of the many options her school has to communicate with other students, such as the program's Facebook page and group projects.

If you're feeling isolated, take advantage of any resources your school has. If the resources are scarce, then seek out other students in your area to have in-person study sessions, or students outside your area for phone or video chat. Stay proactive, even when it seems like no-one else is putting forth the effort.

If reaching out fails, then get your parents or friends involved in your school life, which could mean them helping you study or just sharing with them what you're learning.

3.) Taking it seriously

Taking school seriously was a real struggle for Regenhardt at first. Her recommendation for other online students is to make a calendar and to write down every due date.

"When it's all on paper, it makes you understand just how much work is put into an online class and helps to delegate your time between multiple classes," she said.

Another thing Regenhardt recommends is to daily check the online system your school uses. This will both help you stay up to date on assignments and show you how seriously your teacher and other students take school. Immersing yourself in that regularly will keep your mind on course.

4.) Not interacting with teachers

Regenhardt has had professors who just do the bare minimum, as well as professors who respond immediately to emails and have consistent assignments. For the first kind of professor, she takes action herself.

"I make the effort to introduce myself, ask questions and force them to interact with me," she said. "If I feel neglected, I'll email them and get them to talk and share discussion posts."

Sometimes it's up to you to take initiative, whereas other times teachers will. Whatever the case, regular communication with teachers is important. Unasked questions have no role in a productive learning environment. Plus, teachers can sometimes be helpful resources or mentors throughout the rest of your life.

5.) Life itself

Sometimes, things in your life interfere with school. Since there are no scheduled times to do homework, school gets put aside. Regenhardt knows all about this, since she works two part-time jobs and sings at her church in addition to pursuing her degree online. Thankfully, she learned how to manage her time early on.

"Something has to go in order to make room for everything, and it can't be school if you want to be successful," she said. "It's all about learning where your priorities lie."

All five of these roadblocks force online students to constantly prioritize school above other things. If you want to be a successful online student, take Regenhardt's non-passive approach and do whatever it takes to get the grade.

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