By Kate Whitney
As remote learning and online courses become the norm, we’ve asked a few of our online program alumni to share their tips for remote learning success. They all have family obligations, full-time jobs and also a desire to enhance their careers, while feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Sound familiar? Read on for their best advice to make online learning or remote education successful for you.
We recently spoke with Brittany LaPan, Tom Pelisson, and Jessika Yates—all graduates of online programs through UVM Continuing and Distance Education—to discuss how they managed to strike the (often imperfect) balance needed to manage their personal lives and meet their academic and career goals.
Pelisson, of Newport, Rhode Island, is an alumnus of both UVM’s Digital Marketing Fundamentals Professional Certificate program and the Advanced SEO program, as well as a working father of a three-year-old. He credits the flexibility of both the online courses and his employer, Rejoiner, an email marketing SaaS company, for helping to keep the stress at manageable levels, although he noted that adjusting to going back to school was one of the trickier aspects.
“I graduated from college in 2006, which felt like a really, really long time ago when I restarted taking classes,” Pelisson said. “Overall, I didn’t find it too difficult, at least with the fundamentals program, because every week you were getting great knowledge and skimming complex ideas. Obviously, there was a lot of info, but the teachers did a great job of giving you a great view of the channel, whether it was email or paid advertising, but not really bogging you down with stuff you may not need to know right then and there.”
However, the Advanced SEO program presented a new set of challenges.
“The SEO course was really packed with so much information, so that one was a little more stressful. For me, managing that was more about communicating with my wife and saying hey, the course is going to be every Wednesday or Tuesday night so I need that time and I also need three or four hours on Saturday or Sunday to do the homework and do the reading and whatnot. It was just trying to find that flexibility—which when you have a kid is not that easy. I think, honestly, juggling the home life was harder than juggling the work life into this.”
His advice for making remote or online learning work?
As much as possible, stick to a routine,” Pelisson said. “Because if you’re not organized and you’re stressed, you’re not going to get the most out of it. I think, really looking at your calendar at the beginning of the course, and saying ok, every week where am I going to fit something in? Of course, things change, unexpected things pop up, but at least if you have a little plan, then you’ve got a strategy going forward.”
Small Business Owner and Online Learner
Like Pelisson, Yates found reentry into the academic setting the greatest challenge. As co-owner of Yates Family Orchard in Monkton, Vermont, she knew she had to increase their business’s social media channels, aligning content and SEO, and ramp up email marketing efforts—but she needed help from UVM’s Digital Marketing Fundamentals program.
“There was a bit of a learning curve,” Yates laughed. “It was interesting to see how that unfolded for me.”
Although LaPan, Pelisson, and Yates cite the flexibility of the asynchronous classes, Yates preferred to keep herself to a schedule.
“I think I missed one live class,” Yates said. “And I didn’t like that. It might just be the way I am. From a learner who always sat in a classroom during my college education with the lecturer right in front of me, I did prefer being present for the live online portion.”
Balancing Family and Online Learning
For LaPan, an Occupational Health Specialist at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, it appears a superhero cape is in order.
A graduate of UVM’s Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Health and the 42-credit Master of Public Health Program, LaPan gave birth to a baby boy in the year between her certificate and the master’s program. Her second child, a daughter, was born while she was in the process of completing her MPH.
“When I found out I was expecting my second child I decided to take three summer classes to finish the program faster,” LaPan said. “This was hands-down the most stressful semester for me. This was one of the advantages to the online platform, a lot of the classes you were able to get the reading assignments prior to the week that they were assigned.”
“I was in my last two semesters of the program and she was due to arrive during the winter break,” LaPan continued. “She decided to come early which threw a wrench in my plans! I had her on a Monday and she joined me for my online video group project that Wednesday. From that day until the completion of our project she was present at all our meetings. My days were hectic; I would work a full day, feed the kids dinner and get through the bedtime routines and then finally sit down to complete homework. There were a lot of long nights and early mornings but having a support system behind me was crucial. Until the day I walked across the stage I was in disbelief. Receiving my diploma made all the late nights and stress worth it.”
Online Learning Tool for Success
UVM Continuing and Distance Education offers a variety of tools to help learners be successful whether it’s their first course after returning to school or just their first online course. From 10 Tips for Success as an Online Student articles, to recorded and upcoming webinars sharing tips on how to fit school into busy work and home lives, to Time Management Tips and a Blackboard—the online learning platform—Demonstrations and Tutorials.
In addition, Enrollment Coaches at Continuing and Distance Education are standing by to help you find the best course or program for your needs and goals. Reach out via email at Learn@uvm.edu, call 802-656-2085 or follow information via social channels.