Distance (Online) Learning – How to Succeed Part 2


Kevin Jenkins, Student & Alumni

In the last blog, I talked about some tips to help you succeed in an online learning environment. To refresh, they are:

  • Know your syllabus (and live by it)
  • If it’s on time, it’s late
  • Ask questions

Seems simple enough, but what else should you do? While I’m not going to give you the latest and greatest on AP style or APA citations, I will give you a few more pointers. Having completed two degrees in the online environment, I’ve seen a lot (and then some).

Bleed professionalism

This is a Master’s level program, so why would you not write like it? Seems simple enough, but for some it is easier said than done. It goes back to planning ahead. Let’s face it – by the time you graduate (and yes, if you apply yourself, you will graduate and it comes quicker than you think) you will be able to write discussion posts in your sleep. Every instructor has different requirements, but they generally center around a substantive post (thoughtful and applicable to readings) that is cited appropriately. In this program and others, I have seen posts that appear to be written directly on the text editor and posted immediately with no review. They’re sloppy and appear to be written to do nothing other than check the box. To combat this, I found it was helpful to pre-write my posts in a word document, edit them, then copy and paste (be sure you are using a compatible browser – this does not work on Firefox). You’ll have a much more professional looking product, which equals a better grade if you followed the directions.

Look ahead

Most, if not all of my courses allowed me to look ahead. I was able to get a feel for what future readings would be like along with assignments (sorry, discussion post topics were rarely available in advance). I used this opportunity to download academic articles (reading when able) and also work ahead in the readings. When it came time for the discussion post, I was ready and able to write effectively. By having my work done early, I was a lot less stressed about school. I travel extensively for work and have a preschooler – that’s enough stress for one person, and school didn’t need to add to that!

Share your experiences

The network of professionals that exists in this program is astounding. The textbook and journal article readings are substantial, but so are the personal experiences of students. Apply your own experiences to the learnings to help you and others connect with the materials. I found that students who were able to do this created a better learning experience for others. It’s a great way to learn in real time what works well (and not so well), in addition to making some new friends along the way.

Learn More

Kevin Jenkins is an alumni of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.