With the coronavirus pandemic transitioning many schools and universities online, I thought I would share a few tips on how to be successful in your courses. It may be daunting, but as long as you stay motivated and eager to learn, online courses can be just as educational as in-person ones! While you have to take more responsibility for accomplishing your assignments on time, there can be advantages to teaching yourself the material. It allows you to learn at your own pace, so you can speed through the material or spend more time on concepts that puzzle you.
Keep in mind…we’re in an uncertain time right now with the coronavirus pandemic, so these tips may vary for a course that was recently moved to an online setting due to school cancellations. I’m sure as long as you communicate with your professors, they’ll be more than happy to help you out and work with you!
In addition, my course load is very heavily computer-based as I’m studying computer programming and development. If your courses are not computer-driven, they may be set-up differently than what I might mention in here, but most of these tips still apply!
Keep a schedule
Most of the time, online courses are more flexible with scheduling. Some might utilize technology like Zoom or Skype where students have to check in and virtually attend lectures, but others simply leave lecture material and assignments that you have to review on your own. If the class schedule does not require a online meeting/check-in, it can be beneficial to stick to a schedule anyway. It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule (although it certainly can be!)-you could even plan to work on assignments after breakfast in the morning or after you walk your dog. People have different learning styles, but it’s typically recommended to look at material a few times a week/daily instead of completing all of your lessons/assignments in one sitting.
Since we’re talking about scheduling, it is so important to keep track of deadlines! Whether you use a planner, an online calendar, your phone, or simply a notebook of due dates, make sure you are keeping track of them (you can check out my bullet journal layout here on my blog or on my YouTube channel to see how I plan out mine). Some professors are great at emailing reminders, but others are not. You have to take responsibility to keep track of your assignments.
Know the rules
As mentioned previously, some professors are different than others. Make sure you are familiar with the expectations for the course. Check out the site they use, read through the syllabus, understand where to find lectures/submit assignments, and know your professor’s email. Teachers can make mistakes too, and when you’re more comfortable with their site setup, you can catch any errors they make before they inconvenience you. You don’t want to miss out on an assignment simply because you were not aware of it!
This can be difficult to do, but try not to procrastinate on your assignments! Teachers might be lenient with you at the beginning, but technology issues are typically not a reasonable excuse for submitting an assignment late. Be prepared for when your laptop malfunctions or if the Internet goes out, and try to have a back-up plan in case they do (with everything closing due to COVID-19, this may be difficult or impossible, but some of my Internet back-ups included campus, the library, and Starbucks).
If you are having issues and are struggling to handle them, communicate with your professor! If they are aware prior to the deadline that you are having problems, they might be able to offer a few solutions or extend your due date. In my experience, they are more helpful and understanding when you communicate with them beforehand rather than last minute.
Save your work
Some courses may assign assignments where you have to record information in Word or create essays, codes, or designs. If you are working with a program like Word that does not save your work-make sure you click the save button occasionally! It’s a terrible feeling when you accidentally exit out of a program or your computer malfunctions, and you lose everything that you’ve been working so hard on.
It can be beneficial to have a removable flash drive handy if you plan on switching between computers. Also, it might be a good idea to have a copy of your assignments on your computer AND on your hard drive-especially when you’re working on larger projects!
You might not have a professor around to scold you when you check your phone in the middle of a lecture, but that doesn’t mean you should allow technology to distract you! Turn off your notifications and set your phone aside when working on your classes, and try to find a quiet environment to work in. It can be nice to have a decluttered and organized setup to work in as well, and I’ve also read that it helps to switch up your study environment every once in a while (which can be hard if you’re stuck at home due to coronavirus restrictions-but maybe you could find a different room to work in or sit in a different spot).
I touched on this throughout this post, but make sure to communicate with your professors and classmates! They may not be physically in front of you but that does not mean that you should refrain from using them as resources. Professors are usually more than happy to explain something you are having trouble with and might even be able to provide additional resources that you can look into!
In my classes, we have a discussion board where students can discuss lessons and assignments. They can ask questions about anything they get stuck on and share anything that interests them (related to the class, of course). The professors do respond to comments that go unanswered, but this provides a great opportunity for students to help out other students. Even if you’re excelling in your class, you can read other students’ questions and answer them. Teaching others can strengthen your understanding of the material!
Check your email
This is an essential for any course these days, but I thought I would include it just in case. Make sure you are checking your school email every day! Your teachers might send out reminders, updates on any changes in the lessons, or opportunities that might appeal to you. This is likely the main method of communication for online classes, so it helps to keep it open and be responsive when you can!
Also, if you’re having trouble grasping the material, there’s plenty of resources out there! You can always look into: