Be sure you understand that a continuing online education course requires as much attention as one taken in a brick-and-mortar setting. True, you are not sitting in a classroom, complete with other students, an instructor and a blackboard, but your online course will be no less demanding.
Be sure to ask your school or CE provider about the technologies required for the course. You will probably need: a fairly new computer (not more than 2-3 years old, the right operating system (at least XP), suitable software (minimally a good office suite, maybe Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Java – these last two, updated versions), updated anti-virus software, a secure browser, Internet access (high-speed is a must, preferably with secure WI-FI and a VPN if working in a public space), accessories (e.g., earbuds, flash drive, or web cam), a video card and monitor with good resolution, a sound card with speakers, a printer and a personal email account. Be sure to back up your materials to reliable storage (e.g. a memory stick, an external disk, or a second computer), and print out a hard copy of your work so that if you lose your electronic version, you can create another copy – a good online CE provider will digitally host your certificates and learning materials for your 24/7 access. Having a laptop is a good idea if you wish to be mobile. If you feel that you are going to require technical support, find out where to get it (usually via the contact us page); if you’re worried about what to do if your computer freezes or locks up, IT assistance should only be a message away. Your CE provider should also have IT assistance available for technical issues with course functionality.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the tools and websites involved in the course. In order to avoid any potential problems navigating your course, be certain your instructions are clear for setting up the online account, downloading or accessing materials, and installing the software and/or apps required for taking the course. A good online CE provider’s learning platform should be intuitive and user-friendly for a seamless learning experience.
Create a study space. Set aside a room, or segment of a room (e.g., at home, in an office, library or a coffee shop) that will provide the peace and quiet required for studying and taking exams.
Eliminate distractions. Limit TV viewing and web surfing, temporarily deactivate Facebook and Twitter, turn off your cell phone.
Think ahead. Be sure to read the syllabus or course description and decide on timelines for completing assignments and preparing for quizzes/post-tests. Allocate consistent segments of time per week to coursework and stick to it. Use a study calendar and save it online or on a mobile device, and create weekly to-do lists.
Start early. The sooner you begin working on an assignment or preparing for a quiz/post-test, the greater the likelihood that you will do well.
Take notes. Just as with a brick-and-mortar class, taking notes can help you to remember the information required for preparing for quizzes/post-tests, so preserve them all in one place via a regular Word document and click on the “Ctrl” & “F” key to find them.
Don’t multi-task. Attend to one matter at a time, be it the course material or a quiz/post-test. Focus on the most important and demanding tasks.
Login daily. Although CE’s for your licensure renewal may not be due for a bit, it’s a good idea to check your student dashboard (a good online CE provider will have one for you) regularly to remind yourself of any impending work to be done or simply to see if anything new has been added to your course materials.
Join a study group. This is an excellent way to prepare for a quiz or to simply make sense of confusing material.
Periodically quiz yourself. Use flashcards, or formulate possible test questions as a study aid. If your CE provider gives you access to digital materials, you might even use the quiz/post-test itself as a study guide if you’re allowed to take your quiz/post-test more than once.
Remember why you are taking the course. Always bear in mind why doing well in the course is important – it can help you enhance your skills, get a better job, get credentialed, learn evidence-based techniques for practice, or simply teach you more about something you’re interested in.
Good luck with your course!