Tips from an Instructor: Taking an Online Course

Work on yourself
Whether you’ve recently graduated from high school or are coming back to school for the first time since Jimmy Carter was president (history lesson: that was the late 70s), it can be daunting to take an online course! In order to take some of the mystery out of the experience and provide accurate expectations, we thought it would be fun to give some tips from an online instructor.

Know your style of learning
The very first tip I have for you when considering an online program is to determine what learning style is best for you.To be perfectly honest, some learners simply do not do well in online, self-directed environments—and that’s okay. That’s why traditional brick-and-mortar schools still exist. Think about what types of teachers or professors and classes worked best for you. Online education requires a high degree of personal motivation and self-starting behavior. If those are not your strong suits, online education may not be the best fit for you.

I’ve taken a number of online courses now, some through Career Step and some while I was in university. I did not do well with some classes online (college-level statistics, for example) due to the nature of the type of information I was learning. For other topics, online learning was great.

Own your success
Students who are most successful in online programs are ones who take responsibility for their own learning and success. Online programs are often largely independent study and often do not have a ton of interaction between you and the instructor. Don’t let that deter you.

If you aren’t understanding a concept, don’t hesitate to immediately contact your instructor for assistance. We will reach out to you from time to time during your course, but we rely on students to let us know if they’re having difficulty with something. Mindreading, sadly, is not one of our strong suits. Let us know if you’re having trouble with something. Take responsibility for your learning and you’ll be much more successful.

Use all the resources available
Career Step has a number of resources available to help you succeed. These resources include knowledgeable instructors who can help you understand concepts you’re having difficulty with, a vast online community where you can connect with other students and graduates from your program, and an excellent technical support team to help you if you have technical trouble with your course. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of all of the resources available and if you don’t know what the resources are, don’t be afraid to ask about them.

Schedule, schedule, schedule
While our programs do not have strict schedules, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to plan your study periods. A common trap that students fall into is that they plan to study in their spare time. Who actually has spare time? I like to call that “rare time” because it is very elusive. We can always find things to take up our time if we want. It’s a good idea to set up your study schedule at the beginning of each week and communicate that schedule to your family and friends. That way, they’ll know what you’re doing and will be less apt to interrupt you in the middle of your study session except for emergencies. We provide a handy Study Planner tool with your program to help you plan your progress. I strongly encourage you to use it often.

Know the technical requirements
My last tip is to research the technical requirements before starting. If your computer doesn’t meet the technology requirements to take an online program, it can be a frustrating and expensive problem to fix. Career Step provides all technical requirements on our homepage and we encourage prospective students to read all the FAQs so they can make informed decisions.

I hope these tips help. Do you have any tips for succeeding in an online course? Share them in the comments below!

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  1. Margo Wiggins May 11, 2016

    Very informative, everyone has a different learning style.

  2. Dustin July 20, 2016

    I just plowed my way through a pharmacy tech course online and acing all tests. Now that I’m ready for my externship, and took practice exam, I am hesitant to start my externship just r/t low score on practice test. During the course I thoroughly read the material, but now to remember every detail on every drug….. is that something I need to be able to do before I start my externship?

  3. Career Step July 27, 2016

    Hi Dustin,
    Thanks for your comment and congratulations on doing so well in your course and tests!
    Once you get into the pharmacy for your externship, what you learned in your training should quickly come back.

    Best of luck!

  4. Valerie August 09, 2016

    Very helpful article - thank you. I have just begun the V7 MT program and your tips are very encouraging. Now I know I’m not alone with any concerns about this new learning environment. I have support and am looking forward to the nitty-gritty with less nervousness!

  5. Dori August 23, 2016

    Hi everyone…just enrolled in the Pharm Tech course and over course, quite apprehensive and a wee bit nervous, but I’ve been exploring the on-line community and I’ve got to say it’s a fantastic tool! Feeling the support available; and now, I’m ready to jump in and go for it…

  6. Lianne September 10, 2016

    Thanks for the article. I complete most of my Bachelors in History degree online so I will be quite at home in the online learning environment. That was 6 years ago however so a refresher on tips is nice. I just have to get my mind back into learning mode. I’m just starting MT.



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