If you were watching TV in the 1980’s, there’s a good chance you caught a Hair Club for Men commercial. Sy Sperling was telling us that if we were follicly-challenged, he had a solution. We could trust him because he wasn’t just the president of Hair Club for Men, but a member as well.
Sure, it seems silly, but we want to know something has been tested before we invest ourselves. If your butcher was a vegetarian, wouldn’t you have some questions?
My name is Rick and I work in the Office of Marketing at Grace College. That means I know enough about Grace to tell you why you should go here. For example, the professors really do care about how you’re doing in the midst of mountains of reading, research, and writing papers. It’s not just something we say and it’s not just something that happens for our residential students. The ways of Grace extend to our online programs as well.
How do I know this to be true? Because I’m not only the Digital Marketing Coordinator, I’m also a student in the Master of Ministry Studies program! Just like anyone else who decided to get an online degree — whether it be an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s — I had to figure out how to make it work. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Count the Cost
Do you remember what Jesus said about making sure you could finish what you start? It’s good advice, found in Luke 14, and it doesn’t just apply to kings going off to war and people wanting to build a tower. We are, after all, a Christian college, and every class offers a biblical perspective on topics that will impact you in your career on a daily basis.
This question affects those of us looking at our calendar and considering if we have the time for one more thing. Here’s a hint; you often have more time than you realize.
The question is one you need to ask from a future perspective. Will the future version of you appreciate having the extra tools (and money, according to this article!) that set you up for success? Seeing how quickly life can change, it is almost certain that being equipped for the future is a good thing! This is why Grace just recently reduced the prices for all of our online programs!
One of the common traits of an eager learner is having an inquisitive spirit. You will, no doubt, be asking a lot of questions about your program of choice. Don’t stop asking questions once you start taking classes.
Every professor at Grace offers avenues for contacting them. I have often had questions at night when I am studying. Assuming I would get an answer the next day, I was often delighted to see a reply come back that same night. So personal were their replies, it often felt like we were in the same room!
Get (& Stay) Organized
Ok, you’ve received your class schedule. You’ve fine-tuned your computer to have digital space for all your files. Maybe you even purchased a new outfit. (You don’t have to tell the kids you won’t actually be leaving the house for classes.)
It’s important once you’re organized, to stay organized. After all, you do have a job and a family, so when are you supposed to study? Like everything else, put it on the family calendar. Create a checklist of what needs accomplished and give yourself deadlines. A plan that is well-written is halfway accomplished!
Are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of all this organization? Then the next tip is for you!
Break it Down
Being organized is nice, but you might have a serious case of syllabus shock when you see how much work is due in the span of eight weeks. The cure for syllabus shock is to break down your big goals into smaller bite-sized goals. After all, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I don’t actually know anyone who eats elephants, but here’s how I break down the big tasks for my classes.
- Set yourself mini-goals. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I check off several items.
- Write out a weekly and even a daily schedule. I know a paper for my business administration class is due next week, but tonight is for reading. Tomorrow is for research. After that, I write.
- Breaking it down for some of you involves a dance floor. That’s alright. Did you meet a mini-deadline? Dance your happy dance!
While we’re talking about dance breaks, check out my next tip!
Remember to Take Breaks
You’re taking these classes because you know they will equip you for your future, helping you to attain new levels of success. They are important and you should give them everything you have in order to excel. But breaks are necessary. Yes, even God rested and told us to do the same. But where and how that rest comes will look different for each of us. Here are my regular breaks.
- Exercise. Not only is it good for me, but it also keeps me in shape to put in extra time, and stay alert when I am studying. Oh, I sometimes skip a day, but if you see pictures of me online, just know the muscle shows up better in person.
- Family dinner. This reminds me, on a daily basis, why I am working on another degree. Celebrating a meal with your family is a great opportunity to check-in and see how everyone is doing. If you’re single, that means making time to connect with friends.
- Sleep. Yes, eventually you might pass out in front of your computer, but I’ve found the sleep is much better if I’m planning on it.
Once the break is over, this next tip is crucial for using your time in the most effective manner possible.
Set the Mood
Like everyone else figuring out how to work from home, carving out a spot that is saved for studying will help your brain know when it’s ready to get focused.
Find a quiet space, one where you won’t be in the main traffic patterns of your family. Let them know what you’re doing and ask them for time and space to take care of business. Invest in soundproof headphones if you’re distracted easily.
What if your quiet space is too quiet? I open up my favorite music-playing app and turn on a playlist filled with the soundtracks from my favorite movies. There are no words to distract and the changing mood of the music often gives me a boost of energy.
The key here is removing distractions, so grab your beverage and some snacks so you can hunker down for the entire time you’ve set aside. If it sounds dreary to isolate from everyone, my last tip will be encouraging.
Embrace the Connections with People
How do you connect with people in an online class? The answer is, intentionally. I’ve already talked about asking your professor questions. One of the aspects that every Grace professor designs for their online classes is a section for discussion. You’ve read the books. You’ve written out your thoughts. Now is the time to read other people’s thoughts and interact with them.
I am working on this degree alongside other ministry professionals, which means we have shared experiences. Finding camaraderie among those who have been there and done that is so helpful.
Instead of seeing this as one more assignment, you can decide to frame this as an opportunity. You’ll grow as you see the different perspectives offered, debate pros and cons for arguments made, and learn from your classmates. What a bonus!
The beauty of the college experience is the synergy created from a diversity of experiences and personalities. That same experience happens at Grace College Online as well!