You may not know this, but my MBA program is a distance program. I spent a lot of time researching accredited MBA distance programs, because a) I didn't want to get my MBA unless it was credible and recognized (of course!), and b) I still needed to work full-time. Making special arrangements to leave work early on class days and fight traffic to the nearest program I liked (which was an hour away) was not an option.
Distance education wasn't popular when I was an undergrad, so I didn't really understand how it worked. Also, I am a visual learner, and I love classroom settings, so I was slightly apprehensive when I applied to this program. Holding myself accountable would take on new meaning if I didn't have class meetings to attend. Doing distance education is much more suited to self-directed learners, but I don't think it is exclusively for them. Like many other things in school like standardized tests or chemistry, it may just take extra work, especially at the graduate level.
I eased in by taking one class last term, and now I'm doing two per term for the rest of the program (two years). In a nutshell, here are:
My Tips for Surviving Distance Education
1.) As you start each class, carefully review the syllabus and get to know the class format. Even though all my classes are conducted through BlackBoard, my professors use different forums and have different expectations for contributions and deadlines.
2.) Create a study schedule that fits your life. Block school time out of your schedule as if you have to attend lecture. Make the schedule fit your life, so you can still do things you enjoy like going to the gym, yoga classes, church, etc. Mondays through Thursdays are my heavy study days so that I don't fall behind on discussions and group work. (Yes, there is still group work in distance education. It's a special kind of beast!)
3.) Perfect the art of undivided attention. Refrain from internet surfing! And playing with your pets! If you live with others, make it known when you're studying so they know to wait an hour before showing you "the most hilarious Harlem Shake video ever."
4.) Set specific goals for each study session. There is a lot of work every week, and every Monday the list looks overwhelming. Before you get started each night, set a goal. It could be as small as "finish reading these 40 pages" or as big as "make the outline for my final paper."
5.) Rent your books when you can. Hello, savings! I have rented from Campus Book Rentals for 1/3 of the price. I can highlight and write in the book, shipping is free both ways, and I have the option of buying the book at the end of the term if I want to keep it.
6.) Back up your files. For anyone who has ever accidentally deleted an entire paper, you know how important it is to consistently click "Save." Similarly, it would behoove you to back up your files regularly!
7.) Create a study space... or not. You can see my study space in the photo above. The desk is uncluttered (most of the time), I have a candle to cozy it up, and that part of the house is relatively quiet. It's a great little spot to have, but sometimes I study at the dining table, in bed, on the couch, or at Starbucks. Some people prefer to have one designated study space as a physical anchor of sorts, but changing it up can be a good idea too.
Have you considered distance education?
Do you have any questions?
I'm still a newbie, but I'm happy to help if I can!
And although most wouldn't advocate this, I'm going to say it anyway. Sometimes, you just have to take the night off and not study at all. I mean, let's be real, people. :)