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This post shows you how to survive and thrive in your online classes.
In the Spring of 2020, I left for a great spring break vacation and never came back to school. Everything was canceled, and all of our classes were immediately moved online.
I thought that the rest of the semester was going to be a breeze, and I was going to get off easier than ever. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I had online video conferences I needed to schedule and attend, on top of completing all of my assignments without any in-person direction.
I saw my grades starting to fall slightly, and I knew that I needed to re-strategize and re-focus. Completing classes online, in my experience, are just as hard, if not harder, than traditional in-person classes. Creating a plan for a semester of success is essential to make sure that you are able to thrive academically in college.
This post shows you how to succeed in your online college classes.
13 Online College Classes Tips and Tricks
Create A Class Schedule
The biggest mistake I see people make when they take multiple online classes is just completing the work as it is due. This leads to missed assignments, and even missed tests. Taking time to schedule out time throughout the week to dedicate to a specific class helps eliminate that.
When you register for classes, take a look at the credit level of the classes you are registering for. This should give you a general idea of how many hours you need to dedicate to that class, both lecture and homework time, per week. The rule with this is for every 1 credit, you need 2-3 hours scheduled for that class. So, if you’re taking a 3 credit class, I would schedule around 6-8 hours per week to dedicate to that class.
Now, the true benefit of taking online classes comes in. No matter when something is due, outside of scheduled tests and quizzes, you get to put aside whatever time throughout the week that you choose to dedicate to your classes. I personally like to schedule 1.5-2 hour time periods to dedicate to a class, and trying to keep the time periods to a regular Tuesday Thursday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.
While a traditional time and class schedule works well for me, the adaptability of online classes is really great for students who need to be away from school during traditional hours. This is just one of the many benefits of online classes!
Practice Active Reading
In online classes, it can be really easy to start falling behind and taking shortcuts. They’re usually autonomous, meaning that you complete all coursework on your own. This eliminates any pop quizzes, or teachers asking you random questions about readings in front of all of your peers. Without these potential reading checks sitting in the back of your mind, it’s easy to slack on your readings.
To help keep up your readings, practice actively reading! I do this by highlighting, taking notes, printing out any articles that are uploaded, and really actively marking up the page and studying. This makes a huge difference! Even though this takes more time during your weekly study sessions, this saves you time in the long run. Learning the information really well the first time around eliminates how aggressively you need to study for an exam or quiz in the future.
Keep A To-Do List
Although we already talked about using a calendar to schedule out your study times, it’s also really beneficial to keep a categorized, prioritized to-do list for each class. I personally use a website and app called todoist. I use this for almost all aspects of my life, but it’s especially useful to organize online classes.
Check Each Class Every Day
Checking each class every day allows you to make sure that you’re not missing anything. Even if you go through all of the motions and add everything that’s listed on your syllabus from day one, professors can change stuff around. It’s best to just make sure that you keep on top of any notifications on a day to day basis.
Link Your School Email To Your Phone
Downloading the Gmail app on your phone or using the mail app that comes with your phone is key to making sure that you truly stay on top of your notifications. I’ve even received emails that class is cancelled under an hour before the class started – I literally turned back around from walking out the door!
Receiving your emails just like you receive other notifications, right on your phone screen, is truly the best way to make sure that you stay on top of everything going on in your online classes.
Find a Dedicated, Quiet, Space
Just like studying for in-person classes, you’ll want to create a space that you can escape from all distractions and fully engage with your classwork. For online classes, this space is especially important. You will be both studying and learning the material in this space, so it’s vital that you create a space where you can really thrive academically.
When you’re choosing your study space, make sure that you choose a space that can be used only for studying. Ideally this would be somewhere at school, such as a certain cubicle in the library, but a space at your home will also suffice. When I was unable to attend school in person, I converted my dining room table into the perfect study space to help me thrive. This helped a lot, rather than trying to just do all of my homework while sitting on the couch. The distraction free environment really helped with being as productive as possible, which helped me save a ton of time.
Schedule Small, Manageable, Chunks
The best way to stay on top of your work is to look ahead, and plan out small, manageable chunks to complete a certain task on time. For example, if you see that you have a 10 page paper due 2 months into the semester, and you already have all the materials in the syllabus to write said paper, it would be extremely beneficial to get this paper done in 5 weeks, and then have 3 weeks to spend reviewing and editing. Not only will your grade be higher, but spreading out all of the writing over 5 weeks will make the paper much more manageable.
Scheduling out your work into manageable daily tasks will allow you to thrive in other aspects of your life. Instead of cramming last minute and spending 8 hours one day trying to write 4 pages of your paper, you can work slowly free up more time daily for extracurricular activities, exercising, and social events.
Create a Study Group
Even though you are in online classes, creating a study group within that class can make a serious difference in what grade your receive. While this might be harder in larger classes geared towards freshman, if you’re an upperclassman, you most likely know some of the people in your classes. Invite them into a study group, and your work load will be diminished slightly and your understanding of your classes will become much more broad.
When choosing friends to study with, be mindful of picking people with similar academic goals to yourself. A lot of the time when I’m studying in the library, I’ll see friends getting together to complete homework, with not much of it being completed. A good way to avoid this is to keep your class friends and your social friends separate, or have a specific goal for each study session. When I do occasionally study with my close friends, to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of just socializing, I will suggest that we try to get the upcoming assignment done by the end of the study session. Creating a goal helps everyone stay on task a lot more effectively.
A fantastic advantage of online classes is how autonomous they are. Usually, you are able to see every single assignment, quiz, project, test, or paper that your teacher is assigning you for the entire semester. While some classes only open up sections of the online class per week, I more frequently see professors allowing you to work ahead as much as you would like. Take advantage of this! You have no idea how rigorous the rest of the semester is going to be when combined with your life and your other classes, so getting ahead can really save you. Plus, fully engaging in your work without the stress of being rushed to meet a deadline produces much higher quality results – which means GPA boosting grades!
Keep Up A Routine
Just like an in-person class schedule, make sure that you stick to the class schedule that you have created for yourself. Falling into a set routine each week, and trying really hard not to slack on it, really helps you stay on top of everything.
Connect With Your Professors and Classmates
While online classes can be fantastic for many reasons, the lack of social connection really makes online classes more difficult. Connecting with your professors is essential for finding out about resume boosting opportunities, and even receiving a higher grade. You’d be surprised how far a strong personal connection with a professor, especially one in your major, can get you.
On top of connecting with your professor, connecting with other classmates really comes in handy. There will be times when you need a clarifying second opinion, or maybe you’re scoping out some people to try and create a study group.
When it comes to connecting with professors and classmates through online classes, try to think outside of the box. A good way for people to get to know you is to participate in the classes, whether that be through class wide video meetings, or a messaging board. However, remember not to be the only one talking – find a nice balance where people can put your name to your face, but you’re not engaging so much that other students don’t have a chance to speak up.
Keep a Backup Internet Plan
When I had a semester of only online classes, my internet went out for a few days in my neighborhood. This problem was able to be resolved, but I realized how important it was to have a backup plan for internet access. Luckily, I have a hotspot function on my phone, and I was able to use that.
If going to your university for emergency internet access isn’t an option, and you don’t have a hotspot on your phone, scope out the businesses close by to see which offer free wi-fi. When you have a paper due in an hour and the wi-fi goes out, this can be a life (and grade!) saver!
Keep Up Participation
Fully engaging throughout the entire semester is a great way to show that you’re a good student to your professor, and general class engagement directly leads to higher grades. The more you engage, the more you understand, and the better you will perform when tested on concepts. Just a little engagement every day, such as reading through the message board or attending optional study sessions, make an unbelievably huge difference in your final grade.