Top 10 Tips for Online Classes for College Students

If you’re new to taking online classes in college, you might find virtual learning takes some getting used to. One of the benefits of online learning is that it gives you the freedom to learn on your own time and at your own pace, but that can also make it more difficult for some. Without good self-discipline and time management skills, it’s easy to fall behind in your studies. In order to be successful, try these 10 tips to help you stay focused and motivated from a distance throughout the semester.

1. Understand what’s expected of you

Like in-person courses, each online class is a bit different and expectations will vary from instructor to instructor. Before classes begin, be sure to find out what’s expected of you. Are you required to check in each day, or only a few times a week? Will you need to participate in voice or video chats? What time are assignments due, and in what format? These questions are worth answering well beforehand.

2. Treat online classes like “regular” classes

You won’t be there in person, but treating your virtual classes like in-person classes can help you form a routine and get into a productive mindset. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Get dressed for the day each morning – No more PJs and sweatpants
  • Treat logging in each day like attending a lecture – Be on time and ready to learn
  • Communicate with classmates and instructors – Ask questions or share experiences
  • Eliminate distractions that wouldn’t normally be there – No TV, video games, etc.

3. Make a schedule and stick to it

At the start of each week, write down the major assignments that are due and any other upcoming tasks. Place them in order based on when they’re due/importance, then carve out an appropriate day or time to work on those tasks in the coming days. This will help you manage your time more efficiently and stay organized, as long as you stick to your schedule.

4. Hold yourself accountable

In an online classroom, professors can’t give as many reminders about upcoming assignments and exams. That’s why it’s crucial for students to hold themselves accountable with their studies. One way to do this is by using calendars and planners to track goals and important dates. If you’re having trouble, ask a close friend or spouse to check in once a week or so on how things are coming.

5. Create a “classroom” at home

Instead of curling up on the couch with a laptop, try creating an environment that’s dedicated to schoolwork and conducive to productivity. This area should include a desk or table, ergonomic chair, reliable internet connection, good lighting and all your necessary study materials. Feel free to spruce up your space with plants, inspirational quotes or some mellow music if that helps.

6. Try active learning and participation

Active learning is described as a learning activity where students actively participate in the material rather than passively taking it in. This can be challenging in an online setting, but it can be done. Here are some examples of active learning in an online class:

  • Pausing a lecture/stopping a reading to quiz yourself
  • Writing in a journal to reflect on what you’ve learned
  • Checking in with your instructor to see how you’re doing
  • Reaching out to classmates with questions or feedback

It also helps to participate in online discussion boards. Exchanging ideas and knowledge with your peers can help you enhance and test what you’ve learned. It’s also a useful way to feel less isolated.

7. Take breaks

Online classes are more sedentary by nature, with longer periods of isolation and screen time – All of which can lead to mental and physical fatigue. Be sure to take short breaks throughout the day to give yourself a mental boost. This might include taking a walk, stretching, getting a snack or doing anything to get you up and away from the computer for a few moments.

8. Make use of technology

Now more than ever, technology is helping people stay connected while working remotely. Even if you’re not the tech-savvy type, using video chat, instant messenger and social media to connect with classmates or instructors and collaborate in real time is worth exploring. Study apps, file sharing platforms and e-textbooks are other tools that can provide online class help.

9. Explore online resources

These days, many of the resources available to brick-and-mortar college students are also available to virtual learners. For example, your school likely has an electronic database containing research articles, scholarly journals and other resources available to online students 24/7. Plus, tutors, academic advisors and study groups are available through your student portal. You’re not alone!

10. Find out what works best for you

There are plenty of study tips for online students worth trying, but it’s important to settle into a routine that works best for you. You may find that coffee-fueled all-nighters are your best friend, or that organization is what you need to succeed in your virtual learning experience. Whatever the case, you’ll find that online learning can be engaging and a suitable alternative to traditional college.

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