Digital learning opportunities are widely available and abundant today. From MOOCs to digital study aids to virtual tutoring, there are many ways for students to hone their academic skills while still maintaining flexibility in their schedules. An added bonus? They can often do this from the comfort and convenience of their own computer, smartphone, or other electronic device.

What’s more, virtual experiences are not only becoming more prevalent in the academic realm, but in the professional sphere as well. This can be seen in the increase in remote workforces and online courses/graduate programs.

Students can benefit from the availability of virtual learning experiences, not just in augmenting their current learning experiences, but in helping to prepare them for the real world. The key is in knowing how to use these resources to their advantage. But when the virtual learning concept may seem foreign to some, how can they best approach it?

Here are three ways students can leverage virtual learning experiences:

1. Participate in a MOOC that covers a subject/skill he or she is lacking

MOOCs—also known as “massive open online courses”—are virtual courses open to anyone, anywhere (and usually are free!). MOOCs are a lot like college courses; students will be required to do homework and “attend” lectures if they want to succeed. However, unlike college courses, there is typically no penalty for failing to show up or complete work—but that also means students won’t get the full learning experience out of it!

The more relaxed atmosphere of MOOCs can be both good and bad. For some students, less stringent deadlines and obligations to get work done mean it’s easier to fit a course into a schedule. However, for others, it can make it easy to slack off and not get much work done—which would defeat the purpose of enrolling in a MOOC in the first place.

To use a MOOC beneficially, the student should choose the subject carefully. Students should enroll in a course that they believe could boost skills in, or knowledge of, a subject they’re currently studying or plan to study in the future. This could be directly related to a college major, or not! A science enthusiast, for instance, may wish to sharpen physics or chemistry skills that are crucial to success in labs each week—or, an English enthusiast who may want to teach history one day might choose to learn more about European history. The options can be personalized to individual goals.

(Next page: 2 more ways students can delve into virtual learning)

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