A Short Guide for New Online University Students

Change is good, but change can also be frustrating, overwhelming, and enough to scare us into a confusing period of procrastination or, worse, ennui.  Add in a big dose of anxiety over our parent’s and our own high expectations about what we’re going to achieve and diving into online university studies can feel similar to diving off a giant cliff with only rocks to break the fall below.

Now that I have your attention, university life doesn’t have to be so dramatically challenging, particularly when you have valuable guidance to help you on your journey.  Deadlines, long assignments, piles of research looming, and new jargon can all be taken in stride when you read advice from those who have gone before you.

  1. Get connected. There are many opportunities to join social media, such as AU’s Instagram page.  Or take advantage of the learner support services Athabasca University offers on the web site.
  2. Keep on top of your reading and assignments. Build a reasonable schedule and stick to it.  Give yourself time to read and review.
  3. Resist the urge to skip taking notes. Note taking is an integral part of learning the information and developing your own opinions on topics for assignments.
  4. Don’t give up on your outside interests or hobbies while studying. It’s all about balance between work and play.  Your mental and physical well-being depends upon it.
  5. Develop and maintain a healthy, consistent relationship with your tutors; get in touch by phone or email at the beginning of each course. You may have many tutors throughout your degree, and it pays to get to know each one and what their teaching/tutoring technique is.
  6. Draw up a list of stress-busters that work for you and utilize them as needed. From jogging to journaling, to social outings with friends, your healthy stress-reliever keeps you energized and geared up for success.
  7. Check in on the AU web site regularly for updates and read all your emails so you don’t miss important information, like when the web site will be down for maintenance.
  8. Ask for help when you need it, whether from your tutor or a family member to help pitch in with chores. Your study time is precious so let everyone know when you’re off-limits in the office, working on assignments.
  9. Learn the proper type of formatting for your discipline, such as APA or MLA, as soon as possible. Formatting your papers correctly and consistently grants you higher marks and helps you remain organized in your writing and composition.
  10. Join discussion boards such as the unofficial Athabasca University Facebook group or the AU Landing to stay connected and share your struggles and successes with other online students.
  11. Keep your eye on your ultimate goal, but don’t be afraid to change up courses if you’re finding yourself miserable.

Focusing on the advantages of taking online university courses also keeps you going when things get tough.  Not only might you be saving money by taking university courses at home, but you’re gaining skills that will help you in other areas of your life.  Furthermore, you’re receiving an education that isn’t a possibility for billions of other people on the planet, and that is a blessing indeed.