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The Tech Learning Curve: 5 Tips for Succeeding Online

By Leslie Olsen
In Military Education, Special Contributor

When I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in Canada, the ‘computer’ was a building. In 1990, I married a U.S. Air Force officer and moved to MacDill AFB in Florida. Over the next two decades, I did not keep up with computer technology, word processing skills, and software applications since they were not required in my career or in my personal life. However, twenty years later when I decided to enroll in the online MPA program with American Public University, I could no longer neglect or ignore the technological aspects of an evolving academic environment.

I had recently become a U.S. citizen. While preparing for the test, I became enamored with American politics and its colorful history, but I knew little about American policy, the system, and research basics.

Computer illiteracy and a fundamental lack of pertinent scholastic knowledge presented numerous challenges for me. Nevertheless, I forged ahead, learned with every course, spent hours studying all the background information I could assimilate, and made many mistakes.

Suffice it to say, the tech learning curve was daunting. I recruited whoever and whatever I could in order to build my confidence and succeed, and I believe the five skills or tips to a successful online experience, although not exhaustive, include the following:

  1. Copy and Paste: If it was not in hard print, I had a hard time transferring what I had learned in my studies, discussions, and assignments to paper. At first I wasted a lot of time, ink, and paper, but I had never done this simple task. APU is strict about its plagiarizing rules, so be conservative on what you copy and make sure you credit your sources. Online literacy is critical to an online degree, and you must be able to read, incorporate, and utilize online data.
  2. Formatting: The syllabus for each course will include what style of formatting is expected for your research papers and essays. For me it was APA style throughout the duration of my program. Familiarize yourself with the standards via the APUS library because grades may reflect improper formatting.
  3. Data Base Searching: To facilitate writing a scholarly paper, proper research is fundamental. I did receive a warning after utilizing Wikipedia as a reference. Once again the APUS library and Google Scholar are excellent ways to find peer reviewed and appropriate resources. In addition, finding secondary sources is possible by examining the references used within an article. Every one of my professors provided excellent feedback and suggestions.
  4. Setting Aside Blocks of Time: Finding the time is not a technical skill, but since you are not scheduled to be in a class, you need to push yourself to learn, research, write, participate, and format your work properly.
  5. Bookmarking: All web browsers allow for a bookmark, Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), as a way to save your frequent sources and favorite data bases for quick and easy access.

There’s a learning curve for everyone when it comes to online education. Once you have the basics down it becomes a bit easier, and you’ll get to optimize your learning style moving forward. Don’t let being technologically illiterate stop you from pursuing your education online.

About the Author

Leslie received her MPA in Health Policy from APU. Leslie is also a published author, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Health Coach, and Fitness Coaching Specialist. Besides exercise, she loves to garden, travel, and has fun with her children and dogs.

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