Many individuals would like to advance their education, but face difficulties in attending traditional college degree programs because of work or family obligations, geographical location or other obstacles. For those students, online degree programs may be the best or only way to get a college education. However, just because you may be able to complete a college course without ever leaving your house doesn’t mean that the work is easier or that there won’t be any challenges along the way.

Virtual Classroom Engagement

Perhaps the most common challenge students face in online degree programs is the lack of face-to-face engagement with professors and other students. Online courses are typically conducted through a virtual learning platform. This platform may include reading materials, assignments, and even a forum or chat room for class discussions. Professors can provide course instruction in a variety of ways, such as by sharing slide show presentations, posting videos of recorded lectures, or even streaming lectures live. However, despite the range of ways instructors can foster student engagement, some students simply do not find a virtual classroom as engaging as a traditional one. The lack of in-person communication can become problematic for students who are struggling to understand course material, according to The New York Times.

If you find yourself struggling in an online class, it is important that you address the problem sooner rather than later. One way to start is by contacting your instructor privately, either through the virtual learning platform or through email. Your professor may be able to help you understand the material more clearly. He or she may recommend supplemental reading to help you brush up on basic information that you are unfamiliar with. If necessary, your instructor may suggest tutoring, which is available at a number of schools that offer online degree programs.

The Importance of Staying Motivated

For some students, the convenience of online courses can encourage poor study habits. Without a set class schedule, as students would have in a traditional course, the temptation to procrastinate may be stronger. With no in-person interactions with the instructor or with fellow students, it can be easy to forget assignments and deadline unless the student keeps organized. Online courses often require just as much work as traditional college classes, so putting off coursework can leave students struggling when important deadlines approach.

Because online courses are not supervised in the same way traditional college classes are, the student must stay motivated and organized to succeed. Some students find that designating specific times for coursework helps them. They may treat these self-appointed times as a student in a traditional degree program would treat class times. Keeping an accurate schedule in a day planner and checking it frequently can make sure students don’t miss assignments or deadlines. You can succeed in an online class, but it may take more self-discipline, a greater commitment to staying motivated and better study habits than a traditional course would require.