7 Big Mistakes Online Students Make

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Will the Mistakes You're Making Now Impact Your Future?

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Navigating the distance learning world can be tricky. Online students must learn to dodge the shallow promises of disreputable schools, manage their work, and use their diplomas to their advantage. As you continue your journey through the maze of virtual learning, avoid these seven common mistakes of distance learners and save yourself some hassle...

Jamie Littlefield is a writer and instructional designer. She can be reached on Twitter or through her educational coaching website: jamielittlefield.com.

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Mistake 1: Choosing the wrong school.

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Selecting the right school is the most significant challenge distance learners face. “Diploma mill” schools charge unsuspecting students thousands of dollars for worthless degrees, whereas credentialed, trustworthy schools are able to give their students diplomas to be proud of.

Before you enroll in an online school, make sure it has the appropriate regional accreditation and do some research to find out what type of programs, resources, and support will be provided. Choose an online school that works for you.

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Mistake 2: Procrastinating.

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This problem is magnified ten-fold when students have the leisure of completing classes at their own pace. Many students never finish their degree because they lack the self-discipline and motivation to sit down and get their work done on a daily basis.

If you’re prone to putting off work, set some definite goals for yourself and stick to them. Many students have found it beneficial to create a deadline for receiving their degree and set smaller monthly, weekly, and daily goals that will allow them to reach that deadline.

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Mistake 3: Failing to connect with your peers and professors.

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One of the most rewarding experiences in education is learning through collaboration. Forming meaningful relationships with your peers and professors can allow you to learn more, stay motivated, and have an outlet to express your own understanding of subject matter. 

Plus, your peers and professors will be helpful in the future when it comes to finding jobs and submitting references.

Don’t let yourself miss out on the benefits of these relationships just because your classrooms are online. Stay connected through message boards, chat rooms, email, and other virtual resources.

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Mistake 4: Paying too much.

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The sad truth is that school is pricy. You’re probably not going to get your education for free, but make sure that the future rewards will outweigh the cost of the debt you accumulate now. You don’t want to find yourself making a $30,000 teacher’s salary while paying back a $100,000 student loan (unfortunately, this case is not all that uncommon). However, an MBA from a reputable school may be worth a significant student loan in the long run.

Whatever you choose, make sure you take full advantage of governmental funding programs, take out minimal loans, and try to save in other ways. Books and supplies can often be found at significantly lower prices (or even for free) if you know where to look and most computer and software companies offer huge discounts for currently enrolled students.

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Mistake 5: Scaring potential employers.

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A growing number of professionals are recognizing the validity of online education. However, be aware that it is not completely accepted by everyone. Some potential employers may see warning signs if you announce that you earned your degree through the internet. A lot of people are still ignorant of the advances online education has made in recent years and fail to recognize the difference between legitimate degrees and “diploma mill” certificates.

Even if you attended a reputable school, avoid calling attention to the fact that your studies were done online. It may not make a difference, but it may end up saving you a lot of hassle.

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Mistake 6: Not getting credit where credit is due.

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You don’t have to start from scratch when you begin learning online. If you have credit from previous schools, make sure to have transcripts sent to your online university and have the counselors check for course equivalency. Even if equivalencies are not granted automatically, you may be able to petition to receive credit. (Just make sure you do a good job of stating your case).

A few schools will allow you to receive credit for life experience, based on testing or portfolio reviews. Check with your school’s counselors to see how you can get credit for what you already know.

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Mistake 7: Remaining ignorant of online resources.

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There’s a lot of online material available to help out students; make sure you know where you can get the help you need.

Many schools offer extensive online resources to students including library access, virtual tutoring, online paper reviews, downloadable subject-matter guides, and advice for finishing your degree in a timely manner.

You should also aware of general resources such as virtual dictionaries, research help, and online books, as well as resources that relate to your specialized subject matter. Finding these sites from the start will save you money on books and help you find success in your studies.