Tips for success in online classes

Technology – review and know how to use equipment & software/apps

Review the recommended tech specs and suggested programs to make sure your equipment is up to date and you have needed software available. Try out technology before it is needed – e.g. try a video conference to make sure your camera and microphone work and you know how to get in before the scheduled conference/meeting. Know how to navigate to where you need to be and how to ask for help if you need to.

Manage your time

• Set goals
• Develop a routine
• Treat class times/projects like a job
• Break down tasks and schedule specific times to be working on specific tasks
• Take notes

A big part of online education is managing your own time effectively. Just like traditional school, you still need to put time aside every day to do classwork and study. You still need to complete all of your reading and assignments by designated deadlines. If you have live lectures, group meetings, or text-based chats, you still need to attend them. On the one hand, it is easier to get to class because it’s right there in your living room. On the other, it’s also easier just to skip because, well, you’re in your living room. Consider how you will hold yourself accountable.
Set strict guidelines so assignments are completed on time. If an assignment is due on a Monday, do not wait to do it until Sunday night. It creates unnecessary stress and anxiety. Most students find themselves putting in a lot of work on the day an assignment is due. A good strategy is to pretend that everything is due one day early, giving yourself a little extra time if needed.
For bigger assignments, such as projects and essays, it is beneficial to set a personal deadline to finish two days before the actual deadline. Two days is an ideal time to do extra revision and editing to any work. It allows one day for rest and one day to revisit the work with clear eyes. That one day could mean catching errors in grammar that were missed in the original revision process and making a satisfactory grade into an excellent one. Save your work when you are finished and come back them next day and read it aloud. You will find more mistakes that way and possibly see a better way to write something. This only works if you manage your time well enough to have those extra hours later to review.

Have a Consistent Workspace that is free from distractions and noise

A common characteristic of online and on-ground courses is that students need a place to study or complete assignments, whether that’s at home, a local wifi hotspot, or school library. Wherever students choose to study and complete assignments, they should make it a consistent location. Create a space of peace. You need to designate an area that is free of distraction. When diversions are present, it may reflect in poor quality of work; hindering your education. Discussing your “quiet zone” with your family or friends may be beneficial as well so they understand that your time is crucial to your academic success.
Control the distractions you can. For example silence your cellphone. A distraction reduced environment slows your thinking down and helps you feel more at ease because you have fewer interruptions and lower cognitive overload. Log off of all social media accounts. There are enough distractions around you in the real world. You don’t need to add more in the virtual world. It’s easy to lose track of time scrolling through your friend’s vacation photos or reading all the hilarious cat memes.

Connect with others

• Contact professors early and check in often.
• Ask questions – to the professor and to classmates

It’s important if you’re struggling with a topic to be proactive and seek out help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t understand, just ask. The professors are there to help.  Don’t be afraid to correspond outside of class time to ask questions, seek clarifications, or even just express a greater interest in subject matter that really speaks to you. You never know when you might be initiating correspondence with a future mentor, somebody who can truly deepen your knowledge and appreciation of a subject. Log into the class regularly and always check your school email address – there may be changes or updates to assignments.

Engage with classmates

You’re not the only student in the class (even if it feels that way sometimes). Reach out to your classmates and see if they’re struggling with the same things you are. You can create a Zoom video conference session or Google hangout with a study group or start an online discussion thread on Slack or over email that allows you to get the help you need and help other students with what they’re struggling with. One of the best ways to be successful is to group together with some study buddies. Your classmates can be invaluable for to succeeding in online courses. Be there for each other to bounce ideas, work out task requirements, study for exams and help reduce stress. Encourage and remind one another that it will all be worth it.

Reward yourself

If you get an A on a paper, treat yourself. If you get an A in the class, go big with your reward. You have to remember that you do have a life. Connect with your friends or partner. If you only do homework, you’re going to get burned out. Reward yourself! It can be easier to motivate ourselves when we know there’s something waiting for us at the finish line.