Studying Online with OPIT
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Adjusting to studying online is no easy task, especially if you’re used to a traditional classroom setting. But once you find your rhythm, you’ll realize that no traditional classroom can match the flexibility, convenience, and accessibility of online learning.
To help ease your success, Rosario Maccarrone, the Head of Student Services at the Open Institute of Technology, has compiled a detailed list of dos and don’ts of studying online. Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll excel at your studies as a full-time student or a working professional.
The Dos and Don’ts of Studying Online for Full-Time Students
Let’s say you’ve decided to commit to full-time online studies. Here’s what Rosario suggests for academic success.
1. Find a Study Rhythm That Works for You
The best thing about studying online is that no one’s around to dictate your study schedule. It’s up to you to set your own learning pace and study hours. Find a steady study rhythm that aligns with your preferences, and your productivity will never falter.
2. Make a Schedule
Don’t get it twisted – a lack of a fixed class schedule doesn’t mean you should go without a schedule entirely. Keeping a schedule will help you stay organized, focused, and on track with your studies, which can be challenging when no one guides your daily routine. Your schedule should allocate time for classes (OPIT offers one live class per week for each course), revising, and, of course, taking it easy.
3. Keep a To-Do List
Just like a schedule, a to-do list can help you always stay on top of your game. Make it digital, and you can easily update it as you study or complete tasks on your computer.
4. Don’t Be Shy to Ask Questions
It’s perfectly OK to struggle with some parts of your online courses. However, it’s not OK to keep this to yourself out of shame or fear and struggle in silence. Your professors and tutors are there for you to guide you every step of the way. Remember this, and you’ll have no trouble asking questions when things get tricky.
5. Use All the Online Resources Your Program Offers
Just like your professors are there for you, so are the abundant online resources your university offers. Do a little research to get familiar with these resources and then make the most of them.
6. Collaborate With Your Classmates
You might not be able to see your peers in person, but you can—and should—communicate with them in a myriad of ways. Rosario suggests participating in chats during live sessions and taking advantage of every chance for group work. This will help you build a solid online community and nail your studies.
7. Join in on Online Campus Events
Studying is never just about learning. It’s also about meeting new people, making friends, and building a network. Online studying is no different; you’ll just do all of these incredible things online. So, make sure to keep up with your university’s virtual campus events and attend them to keep your studies (and life) more interesting.
8. Make a Study Spot
Let’s not sugarcoat it – learning from home often comes with a bunch of distractions. From your family talking in the background to the allure of your comfy bed, distractions are plenty. By making a designated study spot somewhere quiet, you’ll rid your study environment of disruptions and signal to your brain that it’s time to get down to work.
9. Take Care of Your Health
Taking care of your health is essential for excelling in all areas of life, and (online) studying is no different. So, remember to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep to stay sharp. Exercising (or just moving continuously) is especially important given the nature of online studies.
Telling you not to procrastinate when studying is by no means revolutionary advice. However, avoiding procrastination can be extra challenging when studying online, given the lack of immediate supervision.
But putting off practice and leaving studying to the last second can only increase your anxiety levels and lead to lower grades (none of which will help you have a successful online studying experience).
2. Underestimate the Effort Online Classes Need
Some students operate under the assumption that online classes are less demanding than traditional ones. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Treating online classes with the same seriousness as in-person ones is the only way to succeed in your virtual academic journey.
3. Cut Yourself Off From Classmates and Professors
Online studying can feel rather isolating. That is – only if you let it. Online universities like OPIT offer numerous ways to stay in touch with your classmates and professors (e.g., Slack, Canvas discussions, and WhatsApp groups), and that’s precisely what you should do.
4. Hold Back From Asking for Help
This guide has already covered the importance of asking your professors questions. But if you feel stuck, don’t limit yourself to professors only. At OPIT, you can also ask your class coordinator or a tutor for help with anything course-related.
5. Neglect Taking Time Out for Yourself
Some students underestimate the effort necessary for online classes. At the same time, others go all out when presented with the seemingly endless possibilities of online learning. If you fall under the second category, don’t forget to take time out for yourself. This is as important as studying efficiently, as it allows you to prevent burnout.
6. Ignore Your Mental Health
Your mental health is just as important as your physical well-being. If you struggle emotionally, you should never ignore it. Your friends, family, or your university’s counseling services can help you find the best way forward. But first, you need to ask for help.
7. Miss Out on Making Connections With Peers
The beauty of online studying is the opportunity to meet new people from all over the world. OPIT alone has students from over 40 countries worldwide. Connect with them, and you’ll broaden your perspective while potentially forming meaningful connections.
Of course, you should also enjoy face-to-face interactions whenever possible.
The Dos and Don’ts of Studying Online for Working Students
Thanks to online studies, it’s never too late to go back to school. You can do so even after working for a few years, as this format allows you to pursue a new career path or enhance your skills while still earning an income.
Of course, you can also choose to work and study at the same time immediately after graduating from high school.
Whatever the case, here’s what Rosario suggests doing (and not doing).
1. Balance Your Work and Study Time
When you have both work and studies, you must allocate your time wisely. Creating a realistic schedule that you can keep up with daily is step one.
2. Talk to Your Boss About Supporting Your Study Goals
Most bosses are highly supportive of their employees’ professional development. After all, your personal growth can only positively reflect on your company. So, don’t be afraid to talk to your boss about your studies.
With some luck, you’ll be able to schedule shifts around your classes, take days off for studying (or taking exams), and even study at work during downtime.
3. Strive for Flexibility at Work
If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that most jobs can be done from home (and done successfully). So, if possible, switch to working from home, as this will save you a lot of time. Just think of it this way – no more getting ready and commuting to and from work.
4. Connect With Colleagues in Similar Situations
Balancing work and studies can sometimes feel overwhelming. Connect with colleagues who are also going through the same thing (or did in the past), and you’ll get all the encouragement you need to keep pushing forward.
5. Grab Chances to Build Skills for Work and School
Let’s face it – most people study to be able to find a decent job. If you’re already working in your desired field – perfect! Seize every chance to apply your practical skills in your studies. Even if you aren’t currently working in your desired field, there are always skills you can learn to benefit your studies and current (and future) career.
6. Set Realistic Study Goals
Doing (or trying to do) too much can bring you no good. So, set realistic study goals that align with your work life. For instance, studying for three hours a day will be a Herculean task when working overtime but a breeze on your day off.
7. Talk to Your Professors
Just like you should let your boss know you’re studying, you should also inform your professors that you’re working. This way, they might be able to make some accommodations for you if your work is squeezing your study time.
8. Keep Your Study Area Separate
Let’s say you work from home. If so, make sure you have separate “work” and “study” areas. This will help you maintain a clear boundary between your professional and academic responsibilities.
9. Find Ways to Manage Stress
Juggling work and studying can be rather stressful. Finding a way (or ways) to manage this stress is critical to successfully keeping up with both responsibilities. Meditating, exercising, taking a walk, spending more time with friends, or taking up a hobby are just some of the methods that might work for you.
Taking regular breaks is also an excellent way to manage stress as well as remain focused on your work or studies.
1. Let School Stress Affect Your Work Performance
If you’re already working in your dream field, remember that studying is only there to enhance your skills and knowledge. In other words, don’t let academic stress affect your work performance, as this can only jeopardize your future in your dream career. It’s all about prioritizing correctly.
2. Sacrifice Sleep or Good Health Habits
Juggling work and studies is no excuse to fall into bad health habits, including sacrificing sleep. Not only will this affect you physically and mentally, but it will also affect your performance in both fields. Talk about a lose-lose scenario!
3. Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Your support network is all you need to navigate any challenge effortlessly. And with both working and studies, you know you’ll have no shortage of those. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people around you, whether to simply listen to you vent or help with a specific task.
4. Let Your Studies Take Over Your Personal Time
For most people, off time is a chance to rest and recharge. However, for students, a part of this time must be dedicated to studying. But the key word here is “part.” Don’t let your studies consume all of your personal time, as this is a one-way ticket to burnout.
5. Miss Out on Networking in Your Field
If there’s one piece of advice every university (online or offline) will give you, it is network, network, network. If you’re already working in your field, you’re in a unique position to do this even before completing your studies. So, take every chance to meet new people and open up new doors for your career.
6. Neglect Seeking Mutual Work-Study Benefits
Your job and studies can likely benefit each other in more ways than one. By neglecting to explore these avenues, you might miss out on valuable opportunities.
For instance, let’s say you’re getting your Bachelor’s degree in Digital Business from OPIT and working in social media management. Modules like “Digital Marketing” and “Digital Platforms and Ecosystems” could directly contribute to your role (and a promotion). At the same time, your practical experience will help you breeze through most of the course material.
This is just one of the ways your studies can open new doors at your work.
7. Overcommit Socially
Your time is precious. As much as it’s important not to use it solely for work and studying, it’s also crucial to not overcommit socially. Talk to your friends and family (especially those with no similar experiences) and set realistic expectations about your availability. Prioritize quality over quantity in your social interactions, and you’ll never feel like you’re missing out.
The Biggest Do: Study at OPIT
As you’ll learn from this list, everyone at OPIT knows what our students need to succeed on and off campus. And everyone at OPIT, from Rosario to your professors, is more than eager to support you in this journey. Apply to study at OPIT and experience what quality studies, academic assistance, and career guidance can do for you firsthand.
It’s clear that there’s a growing demand for qualified computer scientists – as well as professionals in related fields – throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, the field is expected to grow by 15% between 2021 and 2031, with approximately 377,500 job openings per year. Europe is no different. For instance, the European artificial intelligence (AI) industry is projected to achieve an average annual growth of 15.87% between 2024 and 2030, creating a multi-billion dollar industry in the process.
With such explosive growth, one would assume that getting a job in the tech field should be straightforward as long as a student has the appropriate skills.
That’s often not the case.
Though companies have a large appetite for talented and tech-literate students, they typically want to see industry certifications to bolster their formal education qualifications. Here, you’ll discover the impact these certifications can have on your career. Plus, you’ll learn which certifications are the most desirable and how OPIT’s degree programs align with those certifications.
How do Industry Certifications Help?
We start with the big question – are computing industry certifications even relevant?
After all, as a student, you’re already working towards a degree that provides proof that you’re capable in various technical fields. But even with that degree, you may find that employers favor those with specific certifications.
Here are some of the most important reasons.
Showcasing a Willingness to Learn
Obtaining specific certifications outside of your degree shows that you’re willing to continue your education beyond your formal studies. That’s vital. The computer science fields evolve so rapidly that what you learn as part of a degree may be obsolete – or, at best, outdated – within a few years. If you’re not doing everything you can to adapt to these changes, you get left behind. When an employer compares two candidates with the same degree against one another, they’ll invariably go for the one who shows more commitment to keeping their skills sharp.
That’s not all.
Industry certifications also show employers that you can take the theoretical knowledge you develop during a degree into real-life practice. Hence the “industry” part of the phrase. That also leads to the second reason why certifications are so crucial.
Certifications Prepare You for the World of Work
Though a degree program may attempt to emulate real-world environments, it may not fully set you up for the demands industry places on you. You’re working for yourself, rather than a company. Plus, the odds are that your degree may not cover specific applications of your knowledge that would be useful in a real-world setting.
When studying for industry certifications, you engage with courses developed by people who have worked for companies that are like – or adjacent to – the types of companies for which you intend to work. That’s crucial. A certification can prepare you for specific duties or roles you’d be expected to take during your career. The result is that the working world is less of a shock to the system for the student who achieves a certification than it would be for somebody who transitions directly from a degree into industry.
Validation of What You’ve Learned
Validation through industry certifications works on two levels.
For the student, completion of certification serves as proof to themselves that they can put what they’ve learned during their degree course into action. Should you take a certification, you’ll be confronted with real-world scenarios and, often, be tasked with coming up with solutions to problems that real companies faced in the past. When you pass, you’ll know that you have verified proof of your competency within the context of working for a company.
That’s where the second level comes in – validation to a potential employer.
A degree is far from worthless to a potential employer. Most require them for any technical role, meaning you must complete your formal education. However, employers are also aware that many degree programs don’t prepare students for the realities of industry. So, a student who only has a degree on their resume may fall by the wayside compared to one who has an industry certification.
Those who do have certifications, however, have proof of their competency that validates them in the eyes of employers.
The Most Valuable Industry Certifications for Computer Science Students
With the value of industry certifications to supplement your degree established, the next question is obvious:
Which certifications are the most valuable?
You may have dozens to choose from, with the obvious answer being that the certification that’s best for you is the one that most closely aligns with the field you intend to enter. Still, the following are some of the most popular among computing students and recent graduates.
Prince 2 Foundation
Where your degree equips you with computer science fundamentals, the PRINCE2 Foundation course focuses on project management. It can be taken as a three-day course – virtually or in a classroom – that teaches the titular method for overseeing complex projects. Beyond the three-day intensive versions of the course, you can also take an online self-guided version that grants you a 12-month license to the course’s materials.
CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management)
Again focusing on project management, the CAPM can be an alternative or a complement to a PRINCE2 certification. The 150-question exam covers predictive planning methodologies, Agile frameworks, and business analysis. Plus, it’s available in several major European languages, as well as Japanese and Arabic.
Network implementation, operations, and security are the focuses of this course, which equips you with networking skills that apply to almost any industry system. Consider this course if you wish to enter a career in network security, IT support, or if you have designs on becoming a data architect.
AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials
Offered via several platforms, including Amazon Web Services and Coursera, the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course does exactly what it says:
Teaches you the foundations of the AWS cloud.
You’re paired with an expert instructor, who teaches you about the AWS Well-Architected Framework and the models relevant to the AWS cloud. It’s a good choice not just for computer science students, but those who intend to enter the sales, marketing, or project management spheres.
AWS Certified Developer Associate
Where the above course teaches the fundamentals of the AWS cloud, this one hones in on developing platforms within the AWS framework. It’s recommended that you take the essentials course first, gaining experience with AWS tech in the process, and have knowledge of at least one programming language. The latter can come from your degree.
All of the course resources are free, though you do have to pay a fee of $150 to take the 65-question exam related to the certification.
CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
Cybersecurity is the focus of the CISSP, with successful students developing proven skills in designing, implementing, and managing high-end cybersecurity programs. You also become an ISC2 member when you receive your CISSP, giving you access to further educational tools and an expansive network you can use to further your career.
CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
Like the CISSP, the CISM is for any student who wants to enter the growing field of cybersecurity. It covers many of the same topics, with the program’s website claiming that 42% of its students received a pay increase upon successful completion of the course.
CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control)
Though adjacent to the two cybersecurity programs above, the CRISC focuses more on risk management in the context of IT systems. You’ll learn how to enhance – and demonstrate said enhancement of – business resilience, as well as how to incorporate risk management into the Agile methodology.
CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
When companies implement cybersecurity programs, they need to test them against the hackers that they’re trying to keep away from their data. Enter ethical hackers – professionals who use the same tricks that malicious hackers use to identify issues in a network. With the CEH, you gain an industry qualification that showcases your hacking credentials as it delivers experience in over 500 unique attack types.
Agile and Scrum Certifications
Both Agile and Scrum are management frameworks that have become extremely popular in the computer science field, making certifications in either extremely valuable. The idea with these certifications is to build your technical expertise into an established methodology. For context to why that’s important, consider this – 71% of American companies now use the Agile methodology due to its high success rate.
Where Do OPIT’s Courses Fit In?
If you’re a current or prospective OPIT student, you need to know one thing:
An OPIT degree isn’t the same as one of these industry certifications.
However, all OPIT degree programs are designed to align with the teachings of these certifications. They’re created by professionals who have industry experience – and can build real-world projects into their courses – to ensure that you leave OPIT with more than theoretical knowledge.
Instead, you’ll have a foundation of practical skills to go along with your technical talents, preparing you to take any of these industry certifications later in your career. For instance, our MSc in Enterprise Cybersecurity degree aligns with the CISM and CISSP certifications, meaning you’ll be well-prepared for the concepts introduced in those courses.
An OPIT degree complements the certifications you may need later in your career. If you’re not already an OPIT student, check out our range of online courses – all of which are EU-accredited and career-aligned – to take your first step toward a career in computer science.