Bookmark these tips that will help you hit the ball out of the park in your online degree program.

With a low-ball hitter at the plate, the catcher signals for a ball up and away – strike three.

Following a hit to deep center field, the third-base coach waves the base runner home – the go-ahead run.

After a bad call from the umpire, the pitching coach jogs out to the mound to share a few encouraging words with the pitcher, who then gets the final out of the inning.

Whether you're a diehard baseball fan or just enjoy a hot dog and a cold beer, you can appreciate the significance well-timed advice can have in a player's success.

The same can be said for advice in other aspects of life.


Expert advice for starting your online degree program.

At the start of every term, Dr. Diane Johnson, assistant director faculty services with Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning – a veteran instructor, curriculum specialist, and online education expert – shares tips for success in her in instructional design course with her students.

With Major League Baseball's All-Star Game just a few days away – and in the spirit of Babe Ruth who said, "Don't be afraid to take advice. There's always something new to learn," – here is a summary of Dr. Johnson's tips for getting off to a winning start in an online degree program.


1.  Read and print the course syllabus.

From course requirements, learning objectives, expectations, and policies to links to resources and instruction on how to submit assignments, your syllabus contains a wealth of information. All of it can help save you time. Print it out, read it thoroughly, and refer to it often.

2.  Review and print assignments, discussion instructions, and grading rubrics.

Having a hard copy of these materials makes reference more convenient. Consider putting this information in a binder and separating the material by week for quick referral.

3.  Proofread everything.

Check your work before submitting each assignment and be sure you are using correct formatting. Proofreading and making sure that your submission are in alignment with grading rubrics will prevent the need for rework and re-submission of assignments, saving you time and frustration.

4.  Check e-mail and announcements daily.

Doing this when you first log into your class, before going to the module or discussion board, will ensure that you do not overlook important assignments and deadlines for postings and projects.

5.  Keep up with reading and assignments.

If at all possible, work in the course a little every day. At a minimum, be present in the course at least three days each week such as Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Online terms are shorter than on-campus semesters, so it's easy to fall behind quickly and difficult to catch back up.

6.  Ask. Don't guess.

Ask your instructor about anything you don't understand or if you need clarification about course expectations or content. If you are comfortable asking a question publicly, do so via your instructor discussion area so other students with the same question can benefit from the exchange of information.

7.  Participate actively in weekly discussions.

The discussion board is an important component of an online course. Be sure you know what your weekly posting requirement is. It will be outlined in the syllabus. Postings to discussion questions are graded and should be substantive in nature.

8.  Post thoughtful, detailed replies.

Discussion board responses to classmates should be more than "I agree" or "I really don't have anything to add." Use these questions as guidance for a good response: What did you like? What do you want to know more about? What would you suggest? Reference assigned readings or other theoretical, empirical, or professional literature. Make sure all citations comply with correct formatting.

9.  Interact with others professionally.

In addition to making discussion posts thoughtful and thorough, be collegial, courteous, encouraging, and professional in all online interactions. Use the discussion board to share your thoughts, remembering to respect diverse perspectives.

10.  Familiarize yourself with university policies that affect you.

This includes policies and procedures related to academic honesty, the academic honor code, participation, and disability services. Found in the syllabus or catalog, this information can help you be a more successful student by avoiding unintentional mistakes with issues such as plagiarism or attendance, or by taking advantage of disability accommodations that can increase your accessibility to course materials.

Life is a lot like baseball.

Cleveland Indians' legendary pitcher Bob Feller made an interesting comparison between life and baseball.

Feller said, "Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is."

The same could also be said for online learning: every day is a new opportunity to bring you closer to your goal of a college degree.

Do you have any other tips on how to get off on the right foot in an online program?

Image Credit: Peter Miller

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

How To Be Successful In Your Online Class

Achieving Success In An Online Degree Program, Brick By Brick

Choosing An Online Degree Program | 9 Do's And Don'ts