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How to Succeed in an Online Class

man studying intently while working on an online class
fizkes/Shutterstock

The internet has revolutionized the world of education. Today, ebooks can replace stacks of textbooks, and productivity apps now help students stay focused. And some students even get their education without leaving the house, thanks to online classes.

Whether you’re doing a fully online degree program or just taking a free online course to learn a new skill, online classes can be wonderful. However, they also offer unique challenges far different from those of a classroom setting.

How can you make online school work for you? These tips will help you get the most out of online courses of any sort, from beginners’ cooking classes to advanced mathematics.

Schedule Your Own “Class Time”

One of the best, and also one of the hardest, things about online classes is the lack of strict scheduling. While some elements (like video lectures) might happen live, for the most part, online courses require you to keep up on your own time.

If you struggle with time management, consider scheduling a set number of hours on a set number of days as your “class time.” You can ask the professor how many hours a week the class will take to help make your schedule. Then, every time you have scheduled “class time,” you’ll know to sit down and focus on that day’s requirements.

While the hours will probably fluctuate some as the semester goes on, this structure will help you stay focused and avoid falling behind.

Practice with the Tech Tools Early

If you’re good at learning new apps and navigating new websites, you probably won’t have trouble with this. Still, you should determine which tools and platforms you’ll need early, and devote an hour or two to figuring them out in the first week. If you already know how to navigate the required sites and use the right tech tools, you won’t get slowed down when class really gets underway.

Reach Out to Your Professor

As soon as you start having trouble with something in class, consider reaching out to your professor. It’s often better to address small problems now than to wait until they become big problems.

For example, if you don’t fully understand an assignment, or can’t figure out how the discussion board works, send a message right away. Most professors appreciate communicative students and will be happy to help. Your classmates can also serve as excellent resources, so consider writing a post or email to them.

Try a Handwritten Calendar

young woman listening to headphones while filling in her paper calendar
Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Writing things down by hand can help you remember them better, and has other benefits for your learning, too.

While everyone needs to find the system that works best for them, consider tracking your assignments and deadlines in a physical notebook to reap these benefits. You might even want to take your lecture notes by hand, too.

Understand How You Work Best

While online classes are great, everyone has different learning styles. Pay attention to what works best for you, and use that knowledge to maximize your success.

For example, if you find reading on paper easier than reading on a computer, consider making a trip to the library to print off as many class documents as you can. If you find it easier to focus in a classroom than at home, try heading to the library or another location for your “class time,” so you’ll feel more like you’re going to school. You can even enlist a fellow student to sit down and study with you to increase that “classroom” feeling.

Also, try to do your coursework at the time of day when you work best. That’s one of the most significant benefits of online school—being able to work when your mind is most alert. Experiment with studying at different times until you find what’s right for you.

After you give it a try, you might realize that online school isn’t the best fit for you. That’s okay, too. But even if you’re not naturally inclined to learn online, you can almost always make it work with strategies like these. And for more ideas to help you succeed in online classes, try our favorite productivity tips.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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