Taking Online Classes? Here are some tips!

Despite all our best efforts, it doesn’t look like many of us will be returning to campus when the Summer ends. Whether you’re in college or high school, chances are that many of your classes are going to be online. I have taken many online classes in the past, so here are some tips so you can make the most out of the semester!

desk with keyboard and notebook

I’m not gonna lie… Online classes are not my favorite. I love going to campus, engaging with my peers, and seeing my professors face to face. Having a fun class with a great atmosphere was honestly a great motivator to even go to class. Not only is learning easier in a real classroom, there is also a big social aspect to it.

Unfortunately, there is nothing much we can change about the current situation except make the most out of it. This list of tips is of course not a strict guide. They are drawn out of my own experience with online classes, whether they are “self study” or via Zoom or any other platform.

Either way, I hope these tips come in handy!

Tip #1: Familiarize Yourself with the Syllabus

I personally do this whether my classes are online or in real life, but I’ve found that knowing what’s expected of you is really helpful in the long term. The syllabus has all the information you’ll ever need. How to contact your professor, whether they have (virtual) office hours, the class schedule, class materials, et cetera.

I sincerely hope most professors put their syllabi online well before class starts, so that you have time to look over it and see what kind of materials you need. Plus, jot down the class schedule in your planner/phone/whatever you use. Knowing what’s due when is obviously kind of important. And coming to class prepared is also preferable, even if it’s online.

A fun story: I had a professor that put the class schedule online in non-chronological order. I missed like three assignments because of that, and I still have no idea how I passed that class. Like, why did he even think that was a good idea?!

Tip #2: Discipline over Motivation

Right off the bat I’m gonna tell you that motivation is useless. Chances are that when you’re taking online classes, a lot of the learning responsibility is left to you. That means that you are responsible for keeping up with the material you need to study. Even if you attend online lecture, you will still need to put in work. Maybe even more work than you’d do in regular class.

So here is my tip: set aside a certain day and time in the week where you work on your class. That way, it’ll almost be like you’re following a regular school schedule. Let’s be real, none of us want to pull all nighters to finish our work last minute.

In the beginning, this can be very hard. It’s so, so easy to think “but I could be reading/playing Animal Crossing/watching Netflix instead.” But doing a little bit of work every day, saves you a lot of work later!

Tip #3: Don’t Skimp on Your Notes!

If you take notes in regular class, continue doing so in online class. I love written notes, and I do believe they work best if your goal is to retain information. I know it’s easy to get distracted when you’re sitting behind a computer. Your webcam might not even be on, so no one will know that you’re secretly scrolling through social media. But exams will likely still happen, so it would be useful to have some notes! So take your notes seriously. Plus, taking notes is an excellent way to stay engaged in the class!

Tip #4: Work Ahead if You Can

This obviously only works if your schedule allows it. But I’ve found that working a little ahead is very beneficial in the long run. You don’t want all your work to pile up at the end of the semester, after all. Getting a head start on that big paper or project will save you tons of stress and time!

Tip #5: Create a Designated Study Space

It’s super easy to do all your work from the comfort of your bed, but do you really want to associate the place you sleep in with work? Probably not. Designate a space somewhere in your house or room where you will attend lectures and do your work. Bonus points if you make this space distraction free!

Tip #6: Talk to Your Professors

To biggest downside to taking online classes is that the responsibility for having good equipment lies with you instead of your school. This can suck, because not everyone has a shiny new laptop and a high speed internet connection. If you know you might get connectivity problems in the middle of lecture, let your professors know!

Additionally, your life might be extra hectic at the moment. Maybe you have a large and loud household, maybe you work full time, maybe there’s something else going on that might prevent you from giving 100% of your attention to class. Let your professors know of any issues you might have as soon as possible, and they’re way more likely to work with you!

That’s it! The bottom line is, treat online classes like any regular class and you’ll be fine! Pay attention to deadlines and don’t spend the entire lecture not paying attention. I hope this small list of tips helps, and I wish you all good luck next semester!

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