Online studying can be lonely. For young students, who are used to living and working in large groups of their peers, it feels unnatural to study alone. For mature students, it is very difficult to navigate all that technology and find answer to all those questions. Fortunately, it feels like that only at the beginning. As an online student, you are connected, through your computer and Internet, to the rest of the world, to the biggest library that ever existed, to your teachers, librarians, other students, previous students (alumnae) and any other help you will ever need, as long as you know how to find it.
As an online student, you do have a teacher, although you might never meet him or her. Like any other teacher, his or her job is to prepare the course, deliver individual lectures (although those might be in the form of notes, videos, games or a quizzes), give you a list of literature you need to go through, answer your questions and help you with any problem you have with the course. Good online teachers use latest interactive multimedia software to deliver their lectures, making learning fun and easy. Good teachers also quickly answer your questions, knowing that you probably cannot go on until he clarifies a problem you have.
Greatest library in the world
Long gone are the times when we had to go to the library to find a book, dictionary, atlas or a text book. Almost everything is now available online. All good online schools have an extensive library of books, thesis, journals and other materials you might need for your studies. Check the library available at Harvard University to get an idea on what is available. While the access to most sources is free, some scientific journals require payment or membership. Most schools enable their registered students to access such resources for free.
Ask the librarian
Even the best and biggest library is useless if you cannot find what you need. Sometimes there is just too much material. Just like old-fashioned librarians, students’ best friends, online librarians are there to answer your questions and suggest the best source of the information you are seeking.
There is a standing joke that everything on the Internet has to be true. Unfortunately, or fortunately, anyone can post any information on the Internet, and not everyone is reliable source of information. When researching for your assignments, you will find articles and websites that sound totally scientific and present their information with full confidence. You can accept as reliable information posted by the government and its bodies, by universities and other schools and learning institutions. Everything else you need to review carefully. One way of checking the reliability of an online source is the list of references the website used to find its information. If the website has no references, move on. If an author cannot show where he or she found the information, that information is not acceptable. If you want to have some fun, look at the Quack Watch, an independent organization which exposes fraud and unreliable information on the internet in the health field.
Using a number of outside sources to research for your school papers does not mean that you can just copy them, unless you want to quote the information and note the source. Most time you will review a large number of sources and will interpret the information in your own words. To avoid inadvertently copying the words authored by someone else, you will need one of online plagiarism checkers such as Copyscape. Your teacher will very probably run your papers through such program as well. Plagiarism is one of the biggest sins in academic world.
Other students will not only be your great source of information and support, but will help you with proofreading, editing and critiquing your papers. They might be on the other side of the world, but they are going through the same experience as you. Many are very knowledgeable in the field they and you are studying because they have years of experience in it. Many teachers organize and encourage group work among online students. You will soon discover one or more students you have more in common with or simply communicate better with, and you will get a life-long friend, although virtual one.
Computer games and quizzes
When you were going to school as a kid, you did not have a choice. You had to do it. This time, you are studying because you want to. So, try to enjoy it as much as possible. Look for computer games designed to develop your brain capacity or memory, or will just help you relax. Your kids are always trying to convince you that their computer games are helping them with their studies. Maybe there is something in it.
Don’t forget that part of your learning is offline, with your family and friends. Discuss with them the topics you are studying, ask for their opinions and ideas. Walk your dog when you are researching for a paper, you will find that many of your ideas will get sorted out while your dog is sniffing around.
Sameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs.com which is a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge.Sameer has a background in technology with a Masters in Computer Science from USC (University Of Southern California) and is an ed-tech industry veteran.