Earning a Degree Online: Tips for Graduate Student Success

by Ana Felce

Technology has made education more accessible than ever. Thanks to online learning platforms, students can work toward earning a degree online from anywhere at any time—all while maintaining contact with professors and classmates.

Enrolling in an online graduate program is a great option if you’re looking for flexibility and a variety of program choices for advanced education. For instance, Azusa Pacific University offers dozens of online graduate degree programs, helping students work toward launching or expanding their careers in fields like education, nursing, psychology, business, communication, and the arts.

While the online experience may differ from on-campus programs in some ways, graduate students can thrive in either learning format. To help you better understand how to succeed when earning a degree online, here are some helpful tips from APU graduates.

Discover What Works Best for You

Perhaps you’re curious about online graduate degrees so you can study from the comfort of your home and juggle courses with a full-time job. Or maybe your obligations are less traditional, like those of recent APU graduate Preston Campbell, MBA ’19. He earned his MBA online while playing on the university football team in his final season.

Campbell’s online courses afforded him a great deal of autonomy, enabling him to schedule and pace his studies in a way that worked for him. “The flexibility to perform a task or assignment at any time really helped me to organize each day and week,” he noted.

Online learning has the added benefit of providing access to education in places that are far removed from a physical campus location. Linda Williams, MA ’16, who completed her Masters in Art History at Azusa Pacific, noted that remote classes made it possible for her to study and pursue her degree while living in another state.

“I could not have received the education that I did from APU had my program not been available online,” Williams explained. “The online format allowed me to accomplish the master’s in a disciplined manner.”

Set Yourself Up for Success

If you’ve never studied online before, you might wonder exactly how to make an actionable plan for success. Learning from others who have completed your program can give excellent insight into how to succeed.

Like Campbell, many students make their own schedules to stay on track with assignments. He noted that dedicating time to make a plan—and sticking to it—helps combat procrastination and avoids situations where assignments pile up at the last minute.

“The key is to stay organized,” Campbell advised. “Take at least 30 or more minutes at the beginning of the week (Sunday night or Monday morning) and force yourself to set a schedule.”

Maximize Your Learning Potential

As part of her coursework in the online Master of Business Management program, Breanna Lopez, MBM ’19, investigated the capacity for online courses to create a sense of connection and enhance intrinsic motivation among online learners. Along with Interim Dean of the School of Business and Management Roxanne Helm-Stevens, DBA, and George Hanshaw, PsyD, APU’s online instructional designer, Lopez co-authored the article “Enhancing Connectedness and Intrinsic Motivation to Learn for Online Learners: Introducing the S3 Model,” which outlines those keys to success for remote learning environments.

“The S3 model utilizes multiple strategies to maximize the effectiveness of online learning,” explained Hanshaw. “Our S3 model creates a learning experience that facilitates a greater sense of connectedness and community for our students. The use of technology, meaningful assignments, and discussions that embrace every student’s experience is how our model helps students thrive in the online environment.”

Lopez personally related to the ways the S3 Model enables students to maximize their learning through online courses. “In an online learning environment, I was able to connect with my professors through constant dialogue,” she said. “Likewise, I found ways to establish connections with fellow students. And interestingly, there also had to be an intrinsic motivation to connect with the class material.”

Helm-Stevens added that Lopez’s experience exemplifies the outcomes of this model. “By researching with her professors, Breanna was able to maximize her learning potential, add to her portfolio of achievements, and connect with her professors in a way that deepened the impact of her online learning experience,” she said.

Connecting with professors and classmates creates a positive environment for learning. Along with a strong work ethic and desire to succeed, graduate students can effectively leverage online courses and make the most of their education.

Interested in finding out more about the online degrees offered through Azusa Pacific University? Explore the school’s list of online programs to get started.