eLearning is a veritable education craze, with about 20 percent of k12 schools offering online-only courses and one in four university students enrolled in an online class. Yet, if you grew up in the generation before eLearning exploded, you might struggle to study through online platforms.

Without a teacher keeping you accountable for class attendance, without a rigid schedule helping you to manage your time, you might flounder in online education. Yet, eLearning is such a valuable development tool for nearly all professionals – you can find online MBAs as well as online master’s in engineering that boost your career – that you shouldn’t stop trying to make online education work for you. Here are a few big mistakes many students make when first trying online learning and a few ways to overcome big challenges and find success.

You Expect Too Much (or Too Little)

Just as you wouldn’t stroll into an on-campus lecture expecting to learn a semester-worth of material in one sitting, you shouldn’t believe that your online education is going to give you unlimited skill and knowledge in just a week or two. Worse, many online students believe they can “blow off” classes and still excel.

Education isn’t easy, regardless of whether it is in-person or over the web. Today’s online courses are as rigorous as traditional options, but they still require diligent attention and effort from students. You should make the appropriate commitments to ensure you can benefit as much as possible from your online schooling. Then, you should set your expectations – e.g. that it will be difficult and rewarding to obtain your online Masters in Engineering within two years – and thrive.

You Don’t Have a Dedicated Place to Learn

There is a reason so many on-campus students camp out in the library during mid-terms and finals week: The place focuses the mind and body on learning, helping them soak up as much information as possible. Classrooms often do the same thing; because students only travel to classrooms to learn, being in one immediately triggers their ability to learn.

Online students typically lack such built-in education environments. Unfortunately, this means many online students try to force themselves to focus on school in places that aren’t conducive to learning, like their kitchen tables or their beds. You should try to designate a learning space, replete with sufficient resources and an appropriate atmosphere  for your studies. This might mean commandeering a room in your house for an office or regularly visiting your local library to complete coursework.

You Permit Major Distractions

Think about the last time you tried online education. Were your kids young and loud? Did your parents require extra support? Were you especially stressed about anything? Distractions like these severely impact your studies, making it nearly impossible to focus on lectures and coursework. This go-round, you should limit distractions, placing family members in daily child or elder care as necessary or else relocating to eliminate potential interruptions. You should also ensure that any events or issues causing stress are remedied before you begin your classes.

You Are Terrible at Time Management

Most people turn to online education because of its flexibility. You can fit your classes in the nooks and crannies of your existing schedule, allowing you to personally and professionally improve without quitting your job, moving near a university campus or otherwise drastically changing your lifestyle. However, to do this effectively, you need to be an impeccable time manager – and few people are.

The primary problem is that online students often expect to have the same amounts of free time while they earn their degrees, but it is precisely that free time that must be consumed by online education. The easiest way to manage your time better is to eliminate useless activities, like browsing social media, which accounts for about two hours per day – or more if you are younger.

You Don’t Know Your Peers or Professors

You might feel alone in your online education, but most eLearning courses are filled with other living, breathing people, like you. Fellow students and professors are interacting with your classes in real time, and by interacting with them outside of coursework – through emails, online study groups and other communications –  you will feel more connected to your online program and more accountability for your successes and failures.

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