How to be a successful online college student?
You’ve decided to take an online course – you’re in great company! The popularity and prevalence of online classes are on the rise. 37% of all college students now take at least one class online, and 110 million students took online classes in 2019. Most of them use it to gain a new skill and some are doing online degrees completely online.
In a traditional class, your instructor will usually remind you when an assignment is due and will often review the expectations of your assignments in a classroom if you have a question you can raise your hand to ask any question you might have and get an immediate response.
But an online classroom is different in some important ways, and to be successful you’ll need to do things a little differently.
Just like in face to face classes, succeeding in online classes requires a lot of persistence – it requires sacrifice, dedication, and hard work.
What makes a successful online student?
In case you already signed up with any online course, you need to plan it in order to be a successful online learner else to select an online course, you please read the previous article in which we discussed how to choose the right online course.
Here is some expert advice that will help you successfully complete your online course.
Tips for online learning success…
Set aside a dedicated time and space to get a momentum
In order to build and maintain some momentum as you work through an online course (with the assumption that you’re probably working through it on your own), you’ll want to set aside a dedicated time and space within which you focus on working through the course materials, making progress on the lessons and the activities that you find within it.
If you don’t set aside a dedicated time and space, it’s too likely that you’ll forget to make regular progress on it, especially since it’s a digital thing. You don’t necessarily have a book on your shelf that you’ll see regularly that will remind you of the thing you’re trying to learn. But if you intentionally set aside some time and some physical space, then you’re much more likely to actually dig into the course materials and make progress regularly.
Make it (time and space) as a daily routine
My suggestion is to hook that time and space into your daily routine, the routine that already exists. Recognize that you already have a flow to your days, that probably starts with some breakfast, maybe some coffee, then likely you jump into work at some point (whatever work looks like for you) may be taking a lunch break in the office or outside of it, then back to work in the afternoon, and ultimately you end at home.
Try to identify where within the flow of your day it makes the most sense to spend some time on the online course that you signed up for. It might be best to do it right after breakfast and before you head into work. Maybe on your lunch break is a good time. Or maybe in the evening once you’ve put the kids to bed.
When you intentionally build it into your daily routine and have it follow up a specific thing that you do regularly, you’re building in a helpful trigger that (once you get that going) anytime you finish the activity that precedes your learning time, you’ll be reminded “Oh yeah, this is the time that I’ve set aside to do a little bit of learning via that course.”
If you have a specific physical location that’s dedicated to whatever it is you’re learning through that course, a location where you do that learning. Maybe that looks like giving this course a desk where you print out whatever resources are part of the course, where you can leave those resources alongside a pen that you like and a mug that you know is good for coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon. That plays a similar role to a book that you might leave out on your desk that you’ve been meaning to read.
It’s a physical reminder of the learning that you intended to do and the fact that you’ve given it that space makes it easier to jump into that learning.
If you’re not always in the same place when taking in that online course material, the physical location could be just a single notebook where you keep track of all of your notes from that course. That notebook could be something that you take to different rooms within your house or office or throw in a backpack and head to a local coffee shop. And you probably already know yourself well enough to know which of those two types of options might work best for you – a permanent physical space like a desk or a more portable one like a notebook.
And by setting aside a dedicated time and space, you’re just moving the chips a little bit more in your favor, making it more likely to build that momentum and maintain it over time.
Meet your friends in person
The next thing that I think can be helpful when taking online courses is to meet up regularly with a friend in person. Now, internet friends are important too and can be just as real, but I do think there’s something unique that comes from being in the same physical space as another human being. You can even meet someone who is doing the same online course as yours. That will help you to discuss the progress and clear some doubts and learn and share knowledge.
Now you have set the time and space the next is – read the course syllabus
You should carefully read the course syllabus it’s full of great information many students, unfortunately, forget to read it and then wonder why they don’t understand their assignments course expectations important due dates in grading criteria at the beginning of each week. You should make it a habit to review the assignments that are due that week and any other activities that need to be completed and set reminders for yourself.
Do you have all the materials?
Are there specific books you need?
Will there be live interactions that require a webcam?
When are your projects due?
…and when are your exams, if there are any?
I would suggest printing out all the essential documents from the class, like the syllabus. I like to keep everything for a course in its own notebook, so I know where everything is. It’s also just easier to read a printed copy. If you’d rather not do this – if it feels like a huge waste of paper – try getting an e-reader, It will be a great help for your online learning.
I don’t know about you, but for me, it is nearly impossible to read from a computer screen for long periods of time. It’s just too hard on my eyes. Remember, taking care of your vision is also part of being a great student.
Use a planner to manage and schedule your time
Put all the important due dates in your planner. Make sure to check all of these things and be ready to go, BEFORE the course starts.
Try buiding yourself a schedule with several short chunks of time to focus on each class throughout the week.
Successful students use a calendar to plan and manage their weekly study times remembering to study participating in online discussions and completing assignments for your online course can be challenging when you’re juggling all the distractions of life so make a plan get organized and schedule all the time you will need to complete your online course requirements and then stick to your plan.
Another thing to consider when managing your time is how much group work might be required in your chosen course. Keep in mind that online courses can be taken from all over the world. You might be required to work on projects with people in a whole different time zone. Remember to factor that in when setting aside your study time.
Some courses do not require any group work, others do. If the group aspect doesn’t sound appealing to you, try looking for more asynchronous courses, where most of the work is individual and self-paced.
You need to schedule in time for processing the information as well. I know you think it will only take 5 minutes to write a comment on a discussion board, but remember, this is supposed to be thoughtful work, not something casual and off the cuff, like social media.
Participate in online course discussion forums
Speaking of discussion boards – I honestly didn’t realize just how important these forums were until I took an online course. This is where you will connect with fellow students, and maybe even have to answer questions from your instructor on the spot.
Depending on your personality, you might find it slightly uncomfortable to engage with this aspect of the course. If that’s the case, look for courses that have what’s called the “first respond, then read” style of forum posting.
This way, you will write your opinion before being exposed to everyone else’s answers. This removes a ton of pressure – you don’t have to think about what everyone else has said before you give your honest opinion.
When engaging in class discussion boards, remember that even though the language used is more informal, it is still a place where you are expected to write with correct grammar and punctuation.
This is not a social media account, my friends, so, please…
Log into your course regularly
You will need A LOT of self-discipline when taking an online course. You HAVE to keep yourself accountable. So check in regularly. I would suggest logging in at least once a day to make sure you are in the loop about any added assignments or ongoing discussions. It will also feel less intimidating than if you check in less frequently and then you have to go through tons of old posts.
There is the temptation to try to cram all your studying for your online class into one day a week. That’s really not a good idea. Studying for four straight hours is a recipe for failure. It’s just not possible to study effectively for that long. You WON’T retain the information, and you WILL be exhausted.
Use the Pomodoro technique
One of the very best study tips we have to share is the Pomodoro Technique. Basically, break up your studying into chunks of about 20 to 25 minutes, with 10-minute breaks in between.
Do a few Pomodoros for your course each day, and you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
Check out the video about the Pomodoro Technique and apply it to your online courses for a much better chance of success.
What happens if you don’t take this advice, and you keep putting off your studying?
Missing deadlines in any class causes problems, but falling behind when studying online can unravel all sorts of chaos. Now you’re even more overwhelmed. Do yourself a favor, don’t let that happen.
If you do this consistently you’ll build valuable connections with other students in the course and opportunities for cooperation and collaboration and this will enrich your online learning experience.
Develop consistency in your studies
Even if you can’t finish everything in the time you allotted. It’s more important to create a cadence that is in tune with all the things you have going on in your life. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not completely acing everything! Just make a note for the future, to adjust your expectations of how much work you can get done in a certain amount of time.
Nobody’s perfect. We’re all learning and constantly adjusting our expectations for ourselves. If you do get confused or lost at any point, DO NOT hesitate to ask questions. You might feel awkward reaching out – again, that was me. Don’t be me. Believe it or not, your instructors WANT to know when their students get lost. It helps them understand what’s working and what isn’t in the class.
And remember, your question might help not only you, but also other students that might be having trouble with the exact same issue, but they’re too embarrassed to speak up. So ask! There you go, my friends.
Once you’ve learned how to manage your time and take responsibility for your tasks, you can navigate online learning – or any learning for that matter – like a pro. Self-discipline, good study habits. and knowing when to ask for help are all essential parts of being a Great Student!
Use all your available resources
A lot of campus services have already moved online and are ready to help you.
The Writing Center, Communication Center, Learning Services, tutoring services, CAPS, librarians, and and a whole hose of other campuses services are ready and waiting to help you online.
Please take advantage of these resources and get the help that you need and can stay connected to others on campus. Many publishers are offering their e-books for free to students for the rest of the semester, in case you left your books on campus.
Many internet companies such as Spectrum, Comcast, and AT&T have made either home internet or their wifi hotspots available for students for 30 days for free, incase you don’t have broad band acces at home.
Additionally, there’s even a Student Emergency Assistance Fund available through University Life to help if you’re experiencing financial emergancy. We’re all here to support you and try to get through this difficult time together Fourth, communicate with your faculty.
Please take care of yourself physically and mentally
You might be working extra shifts at a hospital, takine care of children or other family members, recovering from a sickness, or struggle to get internet access at home.
Please take care of yourself physically and mentally, both to protect your health, and to make sure that you can do the best academic work possible. Take breaks, eat well, sleep, exercise, and stay connected to your friends and loved ones, even if you have to do it from afar. Please don’t be too hard on yourself if everything seems a little bit harder for a while.
Now something important about taking notes
If you are an online student taking notes can be different from taking notes in a traditional classroom. Your professors may use digital tools, such as PowerPoint, to share information with your class Knowing how to take effective notes from these digital tools can help you succeed in your courses.
When taking notes consider the following:
Use your learning style to create or record notes
Visual Learners – read the notes provided by your professor rewrite or type the notes, and outline or summarize your notes to create a visual map.
Auditory Learners – read the notes provided by the professor out loud, record yourself reading the information listen later.
Kinesthetic Learning – create flashcards or a PowerPoint of the notes, don’t just copy and paste the material.
- Take notes that will help you learn and understand the information. Like, write conclusions, not facts.
- Format your notes as questions and write the answer for them.
- Use color-coding, this will help you organize and scan it quickly to find what you need to know. And, use your notes while completing online tests, quizzes, and discussions.
- The benefit of having an online class is that you may have online assessments. If this is the case, your notes should be a quick reference.
DO NOT solely rely on your notes! Make sure you study them beforehand.
Some other techniques that you could use are:
- Study groups
- Pictures and graphs
- Highlight your books or notes
- Record yourself and listen
- Create models
- Use rhythm
- Get a tutor
- Make flashcards
- Outline the chapters
- Use the internet
- And ask your professor
Using the material provided by the online professor when working on assignments. Your online tutor provide your class with articles, PowerPoints, and chapter readings. Refer to these for the assignments and assessments as well as take your notes from it.
How to use your study materials
Now that we know how to take notes, let’s talk about how to study your materials
There are many techniques you can use to study your notes and materials. So let’s take a look at some of them.
First, there is the SQ4R method. So, what does SQ4R mean? Survey, Question, Read, Recite, (w)Rite, and Review
- Survey – Review the titles, subheadings, graphs and the like to get an understanding of the chapter.
- Question – Turn those titles, subheadings, headings, graphs and more into questions. Think about what you professor would say or ask about the chapter.
- Read – find the answer to the questions you have formed, look at the captions, make notes of all the words in bold or italics and re-read difficult sections.
- Recite – Recite what you just read in your own words, ask yourself these questions.
- (w)Rite – Write the question and answer using only keywords, listings, etc.
- Review – Look back over your questions and answers, go back through the central idea of the chapter, and transfer the important points of flashcards.
Tip: Another technique for studying is Mnemonics
Words or letters, or catchy phrases that help you remember. You probably remember these from your younger school days. Here are some fun examples: like, remember the Great Lakes of America, remember H.O.M.E.S. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior; and the planets My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies (M.V.E.M.J.S.U.N.P) You can also use catchy tunes or phrases to help you remember the material.
So now you know how to take notes and study new material.
Well let’s talk about how to make them successful. An important part of developing good study skills is to evaluate your attitude and goals for studying and working.
When preparing study materials for your course, you need to consider the following:
- Set your goals and priorities for your courses and develop a plan for that goal;
- You need to make goals for each of your courses;
- also, plan study or work in advance by making a table or chart of assignments, projects, and tests with certain due dates and refer to that chart often.
Also, treat online course/school as one of your jobs
Commit to spending a minimum of three times your course hours a week studying or completing work. For example, a student taking two classes, that’s: 2 classes (each class for 3 hours) = 6 hours, will probably spend 18 hours a week minimum for studying and doing their work. Think of this as a part-time job.
Now its time to see and hear from actual online learners
Katie Mar – Typical day of an online student
Ellie Thumann – Day In the life of an online student
Create an ideal study or work environment. Find a place for your schoolwork only and use it every time and make sure it’s free of distractions, if possible. Manage your study and work time effectively. You need to find an ideal study time and develop a schedule. This will help control distractions and balance studying in school work with other activities.
Effective study habit is a skill that you need to develop, by using effective note-taking strategies, having better study skills, and examining your attitudes and goals towards studying you’ll become a better student. The more you use them the better you’ll get at studying.
What makes a successful online student
This is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself and do what you can to protect your mind and body as we move forward for the long haul.
But more than anything I hope you enjoy whatever it is you choose to dig into next, and that you’re able to apply what you learn online to your life in a meaningful way.
Thank you so much for reading it to this end, good luck with your learning, and I’ll see you next time. Until then.
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