The Internet is a fountain of information, connections and distractions.

Don’t want to write that paper? No problem. Hop on Twitter.

Don’t want to clean the bathroom? Don’t worry about it. There are 16 Facebook notifications waiting to eat up your time.

You can run down the life of an entire laptop battery just by stumbling around the internet aimlessly with the aptly titled ‘StumbleUpon’.

But for every distraction, there’s an opportunity.

The opportunity to receive an education online opens the door for anyone with Internet access to get a degree. It’s opened enough doors that only 15% of students seeking a higher education still do so at a traditional university. The other 85% are just like you.

Whether you’re an online educator or an online student, making the most out of your experience and utilizing every tool available is essential to your success.

For Teachers

1)Real-life Relevance and Engagement

If your students seem bored, uninterested, unmotivated or preoccupied—they probably are. As a former student, I like to know that what I’m learning really matters. What do I care about a plant cell lecture? Or about Chapter 18: The Enlightened Reformers? Unless I know that I can somehow apply this knowledge to real life, the answer is: I don’t care.

Make your students care. This concept is especially true for e-learners. Staying engaged in an online course can be difficult. Find out how you can connect with your students and what you can do to help them transfer what they’ve learned in the classroom into the real world. Once your students understand this idea, they can use the skill for the rest of their lives.

2)Think Long-Term

A good learning experience far outlasts the classroom, much like the idea of transferred knowledge. Think about the desired long-term benefits of your course, how it can continue to serve your students and how it can benefit your experience as an educator. Instead of presenting information and stopping there, have your students act on what they’ve heard in class. Challenge them to solve problems, explore new possibilities and apply their knowledge in daily life. These methods are proven to inspire long-term learning and intellectual growth.

For Students

1)Communicate Effectively Through Writing

I hate deciphering a poorly written, under-punctuated, Internet slang ridden email. And your professors probably hate it too.

Being an e-learner means you rely on writing as your primary form of communication. It can be tricky, but when done correctly its even more efficient than communicating in person. Think about what you want to say and how to best frame it. Keep your correspondences relevant and concise. Avoid sending rambling emails or using Internet slang and poor grammar. Even though it’s tempting to send a hastily written late-night email and cut corners on spelling and punctuation, no one will understand your sloppy message, so do it right.

2)Ask Questions, Interact, and Take the Opportunity Seriously

The thought of fading into the background can be enticing sometimes. You’re out of the line of fire and you can get by with just skimming instead of really doing the work—all while still browsing Kelsey’s Facebook photos during class. That can be fun for a little while, but you’ll soon find that you’re a tad behind or that you lack the level of understanding some of your classmates exhibit. With distractions running rampant online, staying focused as an e-learner is essential. Asking questions and interacting with the professor and your peers is a great way to ensure that your attention is fully engrossed in class instead of Kelsey’s birthday celebration album.

I love the Internet. I love both the opportunities and the distractions. But mostly, I love learning how to manage each to use technology to accomplish something great.

img: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Will Lion

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