The growing availability of online courses is one of the biggest success stories of the digital age. It has opened up the possibility of further education to a wider range of people than ever before. Suddenly, domestic commitments, a young family and even a career are no longer barriers to education. However, while online study has opened a world of opportunity, it has also led to an increase in dropout rates.

With greater flexibility and choice comes an increased need for students to be motivated towards greater productivity. Yet, without the structure and support of lectures, faculty staff and fellow students to hand, that is not always an easy thing to do for busy individuals with multiple commitments. Here are five tips that every student needs to take on board, to avoid becoming just another drop-out statistic.

Be organised

Campus-based student life is set around a structured timetable, and the smart distance learning student will follow the same model. Create a study calendar at the outset, factor in deadlines and milestones, and designate study time.

By being organised, you can set aside time that works around other commitments, for example after the kids are at school or in bed. Too many students merely commit to studying “as and when they get a chance,” which simply means it never happens.

Plan ahead

This means more than just being ready for exams and assessments – look at the “big picture” of your course syllabus, see what is coming and you will be able to make more effective use of your time.

Check in every day

These days, we are better connected than ever. If you are able to engage every day with friends on Facebook to discuss what you had for lunch or last night’s TV, then you are able to check in with your college or university too. It doesn’t have to be to do coursework even – just log in, check what’s happening and feel part of the scene, and you will be better equipped to, quite literally, “stay with the program.”

Don’t suffer in silence

Last, but certainly not least, remember this. Every student struggles to keep up from time to time. The difference between the success stories and the failures are those who do something about it.

If you find you are falling behind or struggling to cope, speak up.  One thing is for sure, your course instructors will understand, and they are in a position to help. Remember, they want you to succeed almost as much as you do yourself!

Text by Jackie Edwards