With the current situation in the world, I know many classes are moving into an online format. While many basics of learning are the same between an in-person class and an online class, I believe that there are some specific tips for online learning that can help you be successful in this new format.
Know the Syllabus and Rules for Each Class
In in-person classes, the professor will often walk you through the syllabus and stress and expand the rules that are important to the professor. However, this is almost never the case for online classes.
The first thing you should do at the beginning of a class is to READ THE ENTIRE SYLLABUS!
Make sure that you know the rules and assignments for each class. Check the late work policy: is late work even accepted, is there a grade deduction, or is there a liberal deadline policy?
If you know what types of assignments are expected for this class, it will allow you to be more successful in the class.
Furthermore, the syllabus will also inform you if you need to set up certain resources for your class. For example, if the course requires proctored testing, you need to go ahead and figure out how you can take this proctored test in accordance with the guidelines.
Schedule Assignments Out
Just after looking through your syllabus, you should schedule out all your assignment’s due dates. There are multiple different ways you can do this, but you need to choose a way that you will use throughout the semester.
The first time I had an online course, there was a couple times that I almost missed an assignment because it wasn’t a class that was always on my mind and my professor wouldn’t remind us of courses.
So now, I will often have a paper print out of a calendar with all the assignments placed on their due dates. I hang my calendar around my desk so that it is always something that is in my view to check that there is not something due that I am forgetting about.
For others, people are better using a planner and writing your assignments out in that format. Or just having a list of the different assignments and their deadlines. There are also apps now that are beneficial for you.
You need to have a schedule that is going to work for you! It doesn’t matter if it is not the most organized or common method for you.
Plan Out Assignments
So, once you have scheduled your assignments out, you are not done. You need to plan how you are going to work on those assignments.
When are you going to start a certain assignment, that gives you the greatest chance at success at the assignments? What about assignments that are massive projects, which are really multiple assignments compiled into a single assignment?
Knowing when the deadline is will not give you the best chance for success for each assignment. So now, in the same way you planned out deadlines, plan out your expected start dates and smaller assignments that will lead to your major project.
For example, if you have a term paper, knowing that your term paper is due on the last day of class is not going to let you be able to do your best on your term paper, but if you have a certain day that is the deadline for your choosing your topic and one for your outline you will be ahead of the curve and less stressed than choosing it the day before it is due.
Start Group Projects Early
An interesting aspect in online classes is still having group projects, even when you are not able to meet your group members in person. But if you think about real world experience, there are many times you will need to work with students that are in a different geographical location.
When you have a group project, send out emails as soon as you know the project is a thing. Connect and decide on a timeline and even if you have segmented out the different parts of the project. This will also help none of you to completely forget about the assignment and have it become a last-minute problem.
Another suggestion with online group projects is to have an actual virtual meeting and make sure everyone is on the same page instead of only going on email alone!
Find a Study Group or Study Partner
In-person classes affords you the ability to have access to people in the class to find a study partner/group. However, online classes do not exclude you from these experiences.
When in an online class, you can usually have access to students’ emails or a messaging system. You can also create a group on different platforms for messaging and invite other students in your classes to it.
Having a study partner/group does not mean that you need to set up study dates together. Instead, it is people that you have connected with that allows you ask questions when something is unclear or potentially help you if you are not understanding a topic.
Make sure that you are contributing just as much as you are taking from study partners/groups.
Don’t be Afraid to Contact the Instructor
A big potential problem in online classes is decreased interaction with your professor. However, there are good and not good ways to go about contacting the instructor.
Don’t email your instructor to introduce yourself!
However, if something is unclear or when something is going wrong, you need to contact your professor to ensure that you are on the right page in the course. Don’t allow the fear of reaching out keep you from being successful in the course!
This includes if something is happening in your own life that is preventing you from making deadlines!
Set Up Notifications
The worst thing is to realize that you missed an assignment because you weren’t checking your emails or your course site!
Make sure that you have your notifications set up well on your learning management system and that you regularly check your emails, at least once a weekday.
This will keep you engaged in the course and ensure that you are not missing important information!
Pick Set Times for Classwork
Have set times each week to focus on your classes! This will look different depending who you are and how you like to work.
You can have a large section blocked off for each class a week or you can spend a smaller amount of time working on each class throughout a day.
It doesn’t matter how you are setting up your time, just stay consistent with the set time.
Following set times will also make it feel a bit more like in person classes and keep you engaged with that class!
Pick a Set Working Space
Just like having a set schedule for online courses, having a set workspace or couple of workspaces that work well for you is going to make your more successful in your online course.
Simply sitting on your couch with the TV on and your laptop open is not going to make you a productive student.
Therefore, having a set space, whether it’s a desk, dining room table, coffee table, or floor, that is where you do work can make you more productive when you are trying to get work done.
If you can make your workspace only a workspace, that is even better. I know that many people may not be able to have a space that they can only use for their workspace.
Currently my workspace is a desk in my bedroom, but I only use it for working and not for other fun things. This allows me to feel like I should be doing work when I sit down and not being distracted by the TV or other things.
Know When to Step Away
The last tip is about your own mental health. In online classes, you can feel like you always need to be doing work. Or you can feel like you have to figure out things right then and there!
You need to know when to walk away from your work even if it is in your scheduled class time if you are getting too frustrated or burn out.
It is fine to take a break, walk away, and relax. A good cue that you need to take a break is when you have spent more then 10 minutes frustrated without any productivity.
Allow yourself to reset and come back to the problem at hand later, and you will find it not as frustrating and easier to solve.
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