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5 tips to succeed in an online certificate program

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Career Advice

Taking an online course gives you a lot of flexibility in where and when you do your coursework. That flexibility means you have to take some extra steps to be successful. To complete your online program, we recommend creating a structure to stay on track. 

Here are five tips to help you set up a plan for success:

1. Establish a good workspace. 

You don’t have access to a classroom when you take an online certificate program. Finding a quiet place with a good internet connection and freedom from distractions is important. 

How to do it: Before you start, look around your home and determine what space can serve as a good workspace for you. This might be a kitchen corner you designate as your classroom after dinner or breakfast. Maybe you have a spare bedroom that you can you use. Ideally, you can use this space throughout the program, and when you’re there you know it’s time to study. 

2. Create a schedule and manage your time wisely. 

You are probably working full-time, night shifts, have a long commute, or are taking care of kids. In fact, you’re probably doing more than one of those things. The good thing is online courses give you a lot of flexibility in how you manage your time. But don’t leave it until the last minute. 

Ti-Quan worked full-time at Walmart while completing our program. He found the flexibility of the program key to a successful learning experience and shared tips for other students who are working in similar industries:

“I try to find balance by making a plan to study. I find a little quiet space and devote my time to the program. You don’t need to cram everything into one weekend. Create a schedule, spread out the work, and stick to it. Don’t give up easily or walk away and say you’ll come back. Invest in finishing each module.” 

Another Pathstream student said, “In logistics, your schedule changes often. But every week, you get an email from Pathstream outlining the goals for that week and listing any upcoming deadlines. Then you create a schedule that works for you. If you need support, you have many different ways to get it.”

How to do it: Planning out the weekly readings, tasks, and project deadlines can help you stay on track and reduce your stress. At Pathstream, our success coaches share calendars before you start the program so that you can plan accordingly. Once you get that calendar, we recommend you sit down and schedule time in your personal calendar to study the content and complete assignments. 

Example study calendar for online certificate course

3. Set specific goals. 

Students that have successfully completed Pathstream programs say that setting specific goals keeps them motivated. Lauriann completed our program while working full-time as an assistant principal and taking care of her family. She said:

“Learning online was a new experience, but the modules are structured to be interactive, making learning and working on the projects enjoyable. I never felt overwhelmed by the coursework. I balanced work, family time, and completed the courses by setting practical goals and pacing myself based on the schedule for our cohort.” 

How to do it: Take a moment to figure out the following:

  1. What is the outcome you want to achieve?
  2. What is motivating you?

Make your goals realistic to achieve and ambitious enough to motivate you.

A great example of a specific goal: In five months, I will get a new job as a project manager and increase my salary. I will be able to better support my family and have a career I can grow in.

4. Take advantage of resources.

Figure out as early as possible all of the technologies, websites, and course resources you may need. If the course will use special tools, test them out early to ensure they work on your system so you can focus your attention on course materials and not be distracted by technological problems. 

How to do it: At Pathstream, we offer our students access to a help desk, weekly office hours with instructors, and coursework feedback. Our success coaches also call students throughout the program to keep them on track, remind them of deadlines, and keep them motivated! 

Carlos said, “I always felt like someone was available. My instructor set up a Slack channel, and office hours took place via Zoom. I found it easy to connect and ask questions in these forums. I liked to use Piazza to engage with other students and work to troubleshoot collectively. If I struggled with a project, the instructor gave me clear feedback and more time to complete my work.”

Student studying for online program

5. Find an accountability buddy!

Sometimes having someone help with chores around the house, babysit, or even text you when you’re feeling defeated can help you remain determined to complete your courses.

How to do it: Tell your friends or family that you’re enrolling in an online certificate program. Share the curriculum and your study schedule with them. Designate one or two individuals to be your accountability buddies. This might include them texting you weekly affirmations or being there to have coffee with and decompress. Their goal is to keep you motivated and remind you of the goal you set for yourself!

Need more inspiration?

We’ve had thousands of students complete our programs and achieve their professional goals while juggling work, family, friends, and more. Here are some more resources to keep you motivated:

Watch 4 Habits of Successful Pathstream students.

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