If you’ve decided to study for your operations management degree online, your life is about to get a whole lot busier – especially if you’re going to be continuing to work full-time while completing your degree. In order to be successful in a virtual classroom, experts advise being well-prepared in advance.
Studying for an operations management master’s degree online doesn’t just teach you knowledge and skills directly related to your program of choice – it will also help you improve on a number of soft skills that are important in the workforce, such as self-motivation, the ability to prioritize tasks and manage your time, and help you improve your ability to get by without having the comfort blanket of a physical class to fall back on. By the time you graduate, you’ll be well prepared to hit the ground running and succeed as an operations manager not just because of the curricular information you have learned, but also thanks to the process of studying online itself.
So, what should you do to make sure that you are best prepared for success before you begin your online education?
Research the Tech Requirements
If you’re still using an old laptop or PC that you’ve had since high school, now might be the time to consider upgrading it to a new one. When you study online, you’re going to be using your computer a lot more than usual and you’ll need it to be fast, reliable and up-to-date. Trying to work on a dinosaur of a computer that crashes for half an hour if you try to open your browser and word processing software at the same time is only going to serve to frustrate you.
It’s a good idea to reach out to your school’s tech support department at least a couple of weeks before the classes begin. They can help you determine whether your current tech is up to scratch or whether you’re going to need to splurge on some new hardware and software. Usually, the basic requirements will include:
- A good laptop or desktop computer
- High-speed Wi-Fi connection
- At least two web browsers
- A webcam for virtual classes, interviews, and meetings
- Software like MS Office – or you can use Google for word processing and creating slides and spreadsheets
Get Familiar with the School and Students
Just because you’ve signed up for an online degree program, doesn’t mean that you won’t have the chance to interact with other students. In fact, there’s plenty out there for online students to socialize pretty much just as you would on-campus.
Online groups are a great place to start; many schools have dedicated groups on social networking sites like Facebook that students can join to get to know each other, chat with like-minded people and get some more insight into what it’s like to be an online student. Find out whether or not your school offers virtual meet-ups for incoming students to get to know one another and learn more; many do this using programs like Discord or Adobe Connect.
And, find out more about the school itself, if you can. For example, if you’ve chosen to study at Kettering University Online, spend some time exploring their website, learn more about the department or school that your chosen operations management program is a part of, and visit the campus, if possible.
A survey carried out in 2017 discovered that 72% of online students choose a school that’s within 100 miles of their home. If you’re located close enough, it’s well worth the trip to campus to get a better feel for the culture, meet the professors in person and build a connection with your fellow students.
Take Advantage of the Advisors
The student advisors are there to help you – so take advantage of them! They can provide you with answers to your questions about things like:
- How to register for different courses
- How online student orientation works
- How to get involved in university activities as an online student
- Anything you need to know about the curriculum
- What the weekly expected time commitment is
- What to do if you’re facing difficulties committing to your online program
- How to pay for your online degree
- …and much more!
Attend the Virtual Orientation
Many online degree programs will offer incoming students the option of attending a virtual orientation, which is designed to help them get used to the online learning environment. This orientation is useful since it will help you with things like:
- How to navigate online classes
- How to get help and support if you need it
- How to submit your completed work
In addition, some online programs might even go one step further and give you the option to visit the campus for an in-person residency component of the program, which you’ll be able to meet the professors, network with fellow students, attend sessions and get involved with team-building activities. If you’re able to and there’s one on offer, it’s definitely worth attending a campus-based session.
Many online degree programs will require students to introduce themselves to the rest of the class, whether within the online classroom or learning management system or via social media. If you’ve joined any unofficial social media groups for students at your school or studying the same program as you, you might have already introduced yourself and gotten to know many of the students you’ll be working with during and after the online initiation stage.
For your official self-introduction, it’s worth:
- Preparing a short speech
- Briefly covering your academic and professional background
- Talking about your professional aspirations
Come Up with a Weekly Study Plan
Time management is of the essence when you are studying for an online degree program. Experts recommend that you dedicate a few hours on certain days of the week to coursework. You can do this by using a physical calendar hanging on your wall, or take advantage of digital planner tools that you can set up on your smartphone or sync with your emails.
Some good school timetable software programs and apps for online students include:
- Microsoft Outlook – helps you manage emails, to-do lists and more.
- Trello – a card-based program where you can upload to-do lists and move items around as you progress.
- myHomework Student Planner – a calendar where you can track all upcoming assignments, exams, projects and anything else important, plus reminders for when assignments are due.
- Evernote – A great app for keeping everything organized. It allows you to sync personal checklists and notes across devices.
- Finish – A great to-do list app for helping you beat procrastination.
- 2Do – a to-do list app that uses color coding and allows you to categorize tasks by subject and priority.
- Remember the Milk – a simple yet effective to-do list app that can sync across all your devices and integrate with your emails, calendar, Twitter and various other time management apps and tools.
- Your phone’s stock calendar app
- Your phone’s reminder app
Some other apps that are worth downloading include:
- StayFocusd – a Google Chrome extension that helps you stay off social media and other distracting websites when you’re studying.
- Anti-Social – lets you see how much you use your phone compared with others and allows you to block apps that you spend too much time on.
- SimpleMind+ – lets you organize your thoughts with mind maps and can be synced with your Dropbox or Google Drive to share with others.
- Quizlet – lets you create your own flashcards or use other ones to memorize important information for exams.
- Google Keep – a note-taking app using a pin-board format. You can pin notes, photos, voice memos and lists and share them with others.
- me – a community of people working to achieve individual goals. A great app for online students as it gives you access to like-minded people ready to support you in forming good habits and being more productive.
Have a Strong Support System in Place
Studying for an online degree program from a reputable school isn’t going to be any easier than studying on-campus, aside from the extra flexibility. In fact, if you’re planning on fitting studying for your online degree around working full-time, raising a family or both, you’re going to have your work cut out for you.
Have a strong support system in place and make sure that those who are close to you understand the significant time commitment that you are undertaking, why you might need some additional support from time to time and why you won’t be available around the clock.
Find a Dedicated Study Space
Finally, getting your online degree will be easier if you have a dedicated, quiet and distraction-free place in which to study. Because you’re going to be spending most of your time studying remotely, the last thing that you want is to be distracted by regular household stuff. Ideal study spaces include:
- A spare room if you have one; probably the best option
- A sun-room or conservatory
- If you have an unused garage, you may consider turning it into a study/office space
- A quiet corner of a room in your home
Setting it up with a desk, books, computer and everything else you need will get your student space ready to use productively.
Studying for an online operations management degree is a big commitment that requires a lot of careful planning and preparation for success.