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Online courses are curses in disguise. At first glance, you might be enthralled by illusions of flexibility and freedom, but as the semester chugs along, it becomes clear that online courses require a lot of discipline and responsibility. In many ways, they’re tough and boring. How do you complete such a dull experience without going insane?

It’s a question that’s been asked time and time again, except it’s wrapped up in a different context: how do you make a boring class interesting? There’s no clear-cut answer, but we do have a few tips that might help you make it to the final exam in one piece.

Explore Supplemental Content

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Ever feel like you’d be interested in the subject of a course, but the material is so dry and distant that you can’t connect with it? That’s a common complaint amongst students. Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet and the World Wide Web is a vast landscape full of knowledge and information.

If you’re bored out of your mind, the problem might just be that your course instructor doesn’t know the best way to engage an online audience. When that happens, just remember that you can always find supplemental content outside of your normal course materials.

Here are some excellent online resources to check out:

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I remember suffering through a Linear Algebra course back in my college days. The syllabus sounded interested, but the textbook and professor were so detached that I couldn’t stay focused. After a while, I discovered MIT’s OpenCourseWare and ended up acing the exams.

Expand your knowledge with these seven online course sites Get Tech Skills You Need At These Top 7 Online Course Sites Get Tech Skills You Need At These Top 7 Online Course Sites It's not only about learning programming languages, but also the little unnoticed tech skills that could take you further in your career. Iterate to the next version of you. Class is in session. Read More . Find overlapping subjects to really boost your education to the next level.

Peer Video Conferences

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Have you ever participated in a study group? If you have, you’d know just how helpful they can be when it comes to coursework that is confusing, uninteresting, or straight up challenging. Well, that’s assuming the study group actually studies as opposed to fooling around and wasting time!

Obviously, study groups can be tough to organize in an online course since you never really meet your classmates in a face-to-face manner. Even if you set up an email network or an online chatroom, there’s a lot that can be lost in a text-only environment. Not to mention the fact that it can feel impersonal and distant.

The answer? Set up a regular video conference session Fed Up With Skype? Here Are 6 Of The Best Free Alternatives Fed Up With Skype? Here Are 6 Of The Best Free Alternatives Five years ago, if you would’ve asked me for recommendations on a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) program, there was only one program available: Skype. If for whatever reason you no longer want to use... Read More instead.

Grouping up with your peers is a great way to rejuvenate an otherwise dull course. You can dialogue with others who are on the same page as you, which ends up being helpful for everyone involved. The voice and video makes for fast conversation and a more personal feel, which is bounds above simple text relays.

Engage With An Expert or Tutor

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Why are online courses so boring? In a lot of cases, it’s because the learning experience is passive. It’s the same reason why so many lectures are boring. If all you do is sit there and absorb the material without interacting with it on an active level, it’s going to bore you to tears.

One way to get around that is to contact a tutor. Most colleges and universities have teaching assistants that can spend some time with you on coursework. At the very least, you can try holding an email conversation with them, asking questions and exploring the course topics with someone knowledgeable.

If you can’t find a tutor, try looking around on the web. Sites like BuddySchool BuddySchool: Online Tutors in All Subjects BuddySchool: Online Tutors in All Subjects Read More may have volunteers that can help you out.

Better yet, contact an expert and speak to them about topics related to the course. This is more difficult than finding a tutor, of course, but can prove to be immensely helpful at showing the real-life applications of your studies. If speaking with an expert is still boring, then maybe you’re in the wrong course.

Participate In Discussion Boards

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Another tip in the same vein as the previous ones: passive is boring, active is interesting. If you need another outlet for active learning beyond study groups and personal tutors, why not scour the Internet for online discussion boards How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present Let’s take a step back and think about the wonders of modern technology for one second. The web has made it possible to participate in near-instant communication on a global scale. Join me as I... Read More related to the course subject?

Discussion boards are fantastic for knowledge progression because they employ a positive feedback loop that not only helps you to learn new things but also to reinforce the new knowledge that you learn. Allow me to explain.

Let’s say you’re taking an online course on economics. You think it’s boring, so you go out and find an online forum where economists can chat. At first, you lurk around and absorb the discussions that others are having, but after a while you start to internalize what you’ve learned.

Eventually, you can start offering your own thoughts in their discussions and this actually helps to refine your thoughts on the subject. At the end of the day, you walk away with a better grasp of economics and you can apply that to your coursework.

Conclusion

Long story short, online courses tend to be boring because they are overly passive. If you want to be more engaged with the subject, you’ll need to do it on your own. The above tips are just some ways in which you might be able to do that. Not all of them will work — your mileage will vary — but hopefully they will lead you in the right direction.

If you haven’t already, you should also read up on these important study skills for online students 5 Study Skills Every Online Student Needs To Have For Beating Failure 5 Study Skills Every Online Student Needs To Have For Beating Failure It's not the content, the professors, or the assignments by any means. Actually, it's the format. With online courses, everything relies on you. There's no schedule to follow, no classes to sit through, no professors... Read More .

Have you taken any boring online courses before? What tips and tricks did you use to get through them? Do you have any advice for others who are in the same boat? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Video Conference Via Shutterstock, Business Expert Via Shutterstock, Forum Discussion Via Shutterstock

  1. Sudeepto D
    June 10, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Courses that has a specific time duration and are only available during that period are comparatively good at keeping students stick to their course compared to courses that are available all the time . Courses that have anytime access let students procrastinate and don't always offer an engaging experience except for motivated students who really wanna learn .

    I have suffered from such situation when I registered for the Introductory java course on udemy.com and its almost an year and I haven't completed the course yet because I always find something else to learn. On the other hand the course offered by MIT on edx.org regarding Introduction to Computer Science and Programming kept me hooked by giving me assignments and weekly projects that we needed to submit before a certain time period after which the student would loose grades . I managed to pass that course with 97 % grade. :)

    • Joel L
      June 10, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Good point! Absolute freedom can actually be worse for productivity and online courses really should focus on maintaining structure and deadlines. :)

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