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How to Prepare for an Online Course

iPad with keyboard and stylus

The coronavirus pandemic has put distance learning at the forefront of our minds right now. Online learning is a wonderful way to have access to courses you may not otherwise have the ability to participate in, but it is substantially different from traditional learning. Because of those differences, you should prepare for an online course differently than an in-person course.

Find an accountability partner

One of the downsides to online learning is losing the face-to-face interaction. Having an accountability partner helps you to stay on track. Ideally, that’s a person who is taking the same course as you are. Both of you can then talk about course material. You may be able to find someone online through interest groups or even on Facebook.

Even if you can’t find a peer taking the course, you can prepare for an online course by enlisting the help of a friend or family member. Ask them to check in on your progress to help you moving along.

HabitBull isn’t exactly an accountability partner, but it does help you to stay in the habit of doing something. In this case, studying. Checking off that task every day feels so good!

Make a schedule

Many online courses are self-paced. Which can be both wonderful and difficult! If the course imposes no time constraints, the best way to prepare for an online course is to create a schedule for yourself. Break down lessons or modules into manageable blocks. Your schedule can be more vague, but the primary focus is to pace yourself and avoid procrastination.

You might even need to block out time in your daily schedule. Plan on “going to class” a for a pre-determined number of minutes each day. This may mean getting up before the rest of your family so you can work uninterrupted while the house is still quiet. Perhaps you can carve out some time during your lunch hour. Or maybe, you’ll be burning the midnight oil after others have gone to bed.

Some courses, like my 90-hour Lactation Education Course have live “office hours.” These sessions give you the opportunity to ask questions, but they also help you to stay on track with your own learning schedule. Routines are good.

Locate a good learning space

As you prepare for an online course, think about where you’ll sit and how you learn best. Do you need it quiet? Do you need to be in a separate space so you can work uninterrupted? Maybe you need to work at a library, coffee shop, or coworking space so household distractions don’t detract from your learning time.

Get materials ahead of time

Before you sign up, be sure to prepare for an online course by having the materials you’ll need on hand. Nothing can derail your learning schedule more than starting a course and realizing you don’t have something you’ll need! Ask yourself:

  • What books or other hard copy materials might I need or want?
  • Will I need a desk or noise-cancelling headphones in my workspace?
  • Does my computer need a tune-up or more memory?
  • Am I running the latest version of the software? Do I need to download additional software?
  • How will I take notes, and what materials will I need for that?
  • What device will I use?

By the way, sometimes I like to view the course on my iPad™ and take notes on my computer. Other times, I prefer to view the course on my laptop and use my iPad with keyboard to take notes. Admittedly, there are days when I just go totally old-school with the note-taking and materials!

Once you’ve completed your online course, you’ll need to focus on reviewing and studying, which is also different in the digital age.

How did you prepare for an online course? How did you find it different than preparing for a traditional, in-person course? Tell me in the comments below!

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