Excelling in Online Education

By Dr. Joseph V. Saitta

One increasingly common avenue of continuing education is the completion of education and training online. Here are some practical tips to help you to excel:

Time Management

Regardless of the subject you plan to complete, start with listing all of the due dates for readings and projects. It doesn’t make any difference whether you use a paper copy or an electronic version of a calendar; although the safest course of action is to use both.  Also, backdate your deadlines for the important assignments. And, yes, indicate when you’ll study, too … then do it.

Honing your time management efforts includes determining your most productive work time: some of us are, by nature, morning people; others are not. Arrange to complete online assignments when you’re most energized and have the fewest interruptions.

Research Subject Selection and Determining “Hot” Trends

There is a relationship between selecting a research subject and determining the “hot” trends in criminal justice.

Now, some trends are no longer novel, such as the addition of homeland security to an agency’s mission. Not so with cyber security: most departments still predominately focus on Internet crimes; rather than, in addition, focusing on emerging issues, such as agency infrastructure protection. Thus, that would still be a subject with research potential.

Another way to locate emerging trends is to attend public safety conferences and also to read the field’s professional publications.

Format and Requirements

Having excellent content is only part of the job in online coursework. In addition, using the correct format is critical to your success. If the program you’re completing requires a research project, the very first step is to spend some quality time reading the research project’s requirements. These should clearly specify the format; the preferred content and restrictions thereof; reference citation requirements; the word count; how, when, and where you submit the project; a description of the grading method; etc.

If are unclear about any part of the requirements, immediately ask your instructor for a clarification.

Ensure that you know the specific reference citation method to be used. Most often you will find the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Chicago Manual of Style, or Turabian’s Manual in use.

Participating in Online Discussions

All too often online students don’t use one of the best resources available to them: other students!  If you have a discussion board, then post on it, ask questions, respond to other students’ questions. And, remember: discussion boards often have requirements as to grammar, length of posting, etc.

Finally, enrich your knowledge by making use of a mentor: someone local or even online that has expertise in the subject. You will gain knowledge, build your professional network, perhaps you’ll even find a “kindred spirit” to guide you. Successful people often describe the importance of mentors to their success. Of course, an additional, excellent online resource is your instructor.

All of the foregoing tips should maximize your online learning. Good luck!

Dr. Joseph V. Saitta is the program director of criminal justice at Columbia Southern University. He is a retired bioterrorism coordinator, former federal agent, and a retired deputy sheriff.

One thought on “Excelling in Online Education

I believe it would be very meaningful and beneficial to members if FOP offered Online mini-courses that could be completed and a Certificate of Completion could be printed upon conclusion as a demonstration to employer or to enhance your resume as a “self-initiated Professional Development.” Thank you.

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