8 Tips for Success in Online Degree Programs

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December 1, 2022  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus

What does it take to be successful in an online degree program?

Online education expands access to higher education, allowing students to study from anywhere. It creates opportunities for people who can't leave their jobs, homes and families to study on campus. More than 440 students graduated last spring from University of Arkansas online bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs.

Most U of A online degree-seeking students are working adults, above age 22 and have family responsibilities. The Global Campus at the University of Arkansas works with educators and staff on the Fayetteville campus to remove barriers and apply innovative solutions for all learners. It also offers support directly to students studying exclusively online with online student coaches, online student liaisons, online orientation, an online student communication platform and online prep courses.

If you are considering enrolling in an online degree program – or if you are enrolled and looking for tried-and-true advice – check out what some of our W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship winners have to say. These students are successful in a wide range of online degree programs offered by the University of Arkansas.

Stay Ahead

Cedric Haulcy

"I try to stay ahead. If something comes up, then I have some buffer time. It's a very efficient program but you must be disciplined.

"… you do have to be committed. And by committed, you have to carve out time. You have to read the content, go through the exercises, complete the assignments, and participate in the team projects. You have to do your best to stay on track. If you get behind, it's difficult to catch up."

Cedric Haulcy, Bentonville, Arkansas, executive MBA

You Have to Want It

Crystal Brown

"Anybody who wants to pursue their education has to work for it. It doesn't matter what degree it is, you have to want it. Nobody is going to force anything upon you. If you want it, it will come easy, because you'll be willing to give of yourself for it. That's what it all comes down to. Online learning is about giving of yourself, giving up your time to get to where you want because everything else is temporary. You have to be willing to make sacrifices so that you can get through the program.

"It's been proven time and time again. The most important thing is, if you want it, you can achieve it."

Crystal Brown, Bridgeton, New Jersey, LPN to BSN

Develop Strategies

Alexander Tibbitts

"You need to make sure you are a self-starter and develop strategies of what works well for you. Meet hard deadlines, learn to reach out to classmates, to your professors if you are struggling. You're not in it by yourself. You have the support of others."

Alexander Tibbitts, Skiatook, Oklahoma, BSBA in supply chain management

Be Persistent

Nathanael Martin-Nelson

"… it's an opportunity to be in charge of your own learning. You'll have a lot of independent study time, and you get to choose how you deal with that.

"Sometimes emailing professors is difficult, so I would recommend being a little bit persistent if the professors didn't understand your question or trying to set up some face-to-face virtual time to clarify."

Nathanael Martin-Nelson, Ada, Ohio, MS in electrical engineering

Know Yourself

Felicia Nazarali

"The best advice that I could give somebody is, going into it, you need to know yourself. What I mean by that is — and it would be good advice for every student, really — you need to know things like your study habits. What ways do you study best? Do you study well on your own? Can you motivate yourself to get your stuff done on your own? If you can, then online would be a great option. Once you choose online, the biggest advice I could give is just to stay organized. Go through all your syllabuses, write down all your due dates and things like that in a way that will keep them organized. Always know what's approaching. Plan ahead and study a little bit at a time when it is convenient for you but also make sure that you get all your stuff done ahead of time to fit in with deadlines and due dates and things like that."

Felicia Nazarali, Crosses, Arkansas, BSBA in supply chain management

Time Management

Julia Moura

"… get your time management in order. Because that is probably the thing that will crush you if you put it off until an hour or two before things are due, or you don't watch the lectures. You really need to treat this like an in-person on-campus class. Make it so you force yourself to watch the lectures, read the book, and do your homework just as you would if you were going into class … because if you don't, it will not go well. Not at all."

Julia Moura, Hot Springs, Arkansas, BSBA in general business

Focus Required

Ashley Acord

"I work 7 to 4 during the day, then I come home, make dinner, try to catch up with my husband on how his day went, and then pretty much from 6 to 9, off and on, depending on the day, I'm doing homework, I'm doing group assignments, final projects. There's a lot of evenings and weekends that are spent just working on coursework. If it's not reading chapters, it's studying for the midterm, studying for a final or writing a paper that's 10 pages long. So, it's a lot of work, but I've definitely retained a lot of information as well."

Ashley Acord, Springdale, Arkansas, MS in operations management

Scholarships Aid Students

These students were selected by a Global Campus scholarship committee based on financial need, academic merit or significant community service. The Manning scholarship has grown significantly from academic year 2018-19, when four students received the award, to 29 recipients for this academic year.

Friends and co-workers of W.E. Manning established the scholarship fund with about $4,000 soon after Manning died in 1993. At the time of his death, Manning was studying in a U of A doctoral program and managing independent study programs, a forerunner of today's self-paced online courses.

The Global Campus supports the U of A academic colleges that offer 86 online degree, certificate and licensure programs. These programs are showcased on the U of A ONLINE website at online.uark.edu.

Vicki Martin and Casey Kraichoke of the Global Campus contributed to this article.

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Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at heidiw@uark.edu or 479-575-7239.

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Online Degree Programs

University of Arkansas ONLINE programs are designed by academic departments on the Fayetteville campus to offer you another path to earning a degree from a top-tier public research university. Online programs give you the flexibility to balance family, work and school responsibilities. You do not have to put your life on hold while working toward a better one.

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How to Apply for Scholarships

Visit the Academic Scholarship Office website