There is never a perfect time to go back to school. It’s a decision you have to be firm about. Technology has really changed the way we learn. When I decided to go back to school for my MBA it had been 15 years since I had taken a college class. I put my Thornton Mellon reservations aside and entered the world of online education.
As a mom, you can’t beat the flexibility online degrees offer. However, with the flexibility comes great challenges. Obviously before starting an online course make sure you have the technology requirements and financial means for school. Here are 6 tips for moms to be successful in an online course.
1. DEVELOP A ROUTINE– The luxury of flexibility can be a catch 22 with online education. To avoid bad habits, develop a regular study routine early on and stick to it! It’s just like putting your kids on a bedtime routine. When expectations are established the system eventually becomes easy to follow. Once you navigate the course requirements, designate a day for reading, test taking, research, book work, etc.
Also, commit to a regular time for school. When you’re on campus, this is automatically done for you. You have to be very vigilant and do the same with online classes. My major study time was while the kids were at school. I vowed not to let my education seem like it was taking me away from them. I tried to always finish school stuff by Friday so the kids and I could still have our weekend time for soccer games, playdates, and fun. It wasn’t easy, but with careful planning it was possible.
2.REACH OUT TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR– In grade school I was the
nerd kid who sat in the front row and brought the teacher an apple. I like engaging with my teacher and having a positive relationship. But how can you be “seen” in an online course? Email your teacher immediately. Having a feel for the instructor’s personality helps to give you a better understanding of their expectations outside of syllabus requirements.
Also, contribute regularly to online forum discussions. Online class size will vary, but making your presence known helps you to be more than just a name to a professor. Most importantly, ASK QUESTIONS AND GIVE FEEDBACK. Online classes are new to many professors. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If something can be done to help make their class a better experience I’m sure they would appreciate the suggestion.
3. DESIGNATE A WORK AREA– It makes studying easier when you physically separate your home responsibilities from school. Designate a spot in your home as your School Zone. Deck it out with school supplies, motivating photos, computer, or whatever you need to get in study mode. This spot is just like your desk at school. Once you’re sitting in your study zone, your mentality will learn to shift off other responsibilities and focus on course work. It also helps the kids know that when mom is in this area, she is studying. Beat it. The repetition will eventually set in so stay consistent.
4. GET A CREW– Having a support group will make your life much easier. You will feel more human communicating with people who are also juggling life with school, navigating online textbooks, and trying to meet project deadlines. It’s great to have a classmate in your corner to remind you of assignments, study for tests together, and lend an ear when you need to vent about an annoying professor (there will be a few!).
5. ADAPT TO VARIOUS RESOURCES– Most of my classes consisted of online lectures, case studies, and online readings. To retain this info I used various methods. Flash cards sound juvenile, but they are a lifesaver!!! It is difficult to continuously scan online readings for reference points so having flash cards in hand made it easier to study and retain info. Also, take amazing notes! When you’re studying for a test it is not fun trying to rewind a lecture from 3 weeks prior to find that one point you can’t seem to remember. You have to take better notes with online school than you would on campus. Also, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, and WhatsApp helped bridge classmates for study sessions. Embrace technology!
6. INCLUDE THE KIDS– If the kids are old enough, teach them about what you’re going through.
A.) My kids and I spent COUNTLESS nights doing homework together. It was a great way to encourage each other to get our work done.
B.) When something great happens in school, share the joy with your children. My online tests were proctored so my kids knew they had to be really quiet and out of sight. (Thank you XBOX!). After a test, especially a good grade, I would make it a point to reward
myself them by going for ice cream, hit our favorite restaurant or watch our favorite tv show together.
C.) Between each course I got a 1 week break. We would celebrate with an activity of their choice: bowling, movie, park day. They really appreciated the time together and acknowledgement for their sacrifice of sharing mom with school.
D.) When I did bad on a test or had trouble completing an assignment I shared with them as well. My kids realized that school isn’t a perfect journey. Even mom messes up and can get a bad grade. The key is to not get discouraged and stay focused.