Consider this scenario: you’ve got one day left to complete a final project that’s worth 30% of your grade. Then, that afternoon, your boss tells you he needs you to stay late and help him with a work emergency. What do you do? Which priority takes place: your full-time job or your online degree?
If you’re an online student who also works full-time, you know the challenges associated with earning a living while furthering your education. Indeed, working and taking classes, while also maintaining your grades and meeting outside obligations, can be difficult, to say the least. It’s the rare online degree student who hasn’t had at least one of these conflicting priority scenarios come up, whether it’s the boss who asks you to stay late or the online group project that can only meet during working hours.
However, there are ways to get your degree AND keep your job. Use these tips to manage the dual roles of student and employee:
Take advantage of online coursework’s flexibility
For working students, online courses can be extremely beneficial. In addition to learning in the privacy of your own home, taking classes online can provide further advantages like the following:
- ~Convenience. Online courses provide a virtual classroom that is available at the student’s convenience. In a nutshell, online learning eliminates scheduling conflicts, which means you won’t have to miss class for work or other duties.
- ~Individual attention and instruction. Even without face-to-face interaction, online classes offer lots of individual attention. Since students are encouraged to communicate freely with instructors via email and other online routes, getting help is simple.
- ~Learn at your own pace. With online classes, you won’t have to worry about learning at warp speed; instead of fitting lessons into predetermined slots of time, students can work at their own pace. This benefit is extremely important, as it fosters a deeper understanding of the subject material, thus promoting better grades and overall success.
Your job is to figure out how to balance these advantages and this flexibility with your current job. For example: if you can watch an online lecture at any time, when are you going to do it? In the morning before work? Over a lunch break? Or, if you can learn and complete assignments at your own pace, how can you schedule your class papers so they don’t conflict with your job’s crunch periods?
Avoiding “Poor Planning” Challenges
The smart online student thinks ahead and plans coursework and class sessions around a full-time job. However, there are certain challenges that are likely to trip up even the most prepared student. Most of these challenges are associated with poor planning, including challenges that come up when schedules and responsibilities change unexpectedly.
- ~Procrastination. Unfortunately, online learning makes procrastination all-too inviting. Avoid this by creating a schedule and sticking to it. To reduce time-sucking distractions, it can also be helpful to create a “learning area” in your home. This space should be used solely for learning, and should be cleared of items that may lead to poor time management. For example, keep televisions, video games, cell phones and other devices in another area of your home, at least during your designated study times.
- ~Failure to interact with your professor and your classmates. Your professor and classmates are some of your best educational resources. However, it’s easy to forget to check in with the other people in your class. Many schools utilize virtual classroom software, which allows students and instructors to connect, communicate and share information with ease. Set aside specific time to connect to this software and talk to the other people in your classroom.
- ~Lack of motivation. At some point in your online degree, you’re going to think about giving up. With no one hounding you to stay on track, completing course work may be challenging. However, you can stay motivated by keeping your end goal in sight. Just remember how great it will feel to earn your degree, make more money and create a better life for yourself and your family. Planning for your future now will help that future come true.
If you’re a working student, congratulations on taking the necessary steps in changing your life for the better. Congratulations also on balancing two important roles: student and employee. Just remember, while you will face a fair amount of challenges along the way, the benefits are well worth the effort. Good luck, and happy learning!