Online classes provide a unique set of both challenges and advantages when it comes to academic coursework. This article will address some of the challenges of online learning as well as provide you with five tips to help improve your chances of success in online classes.
Tip #1 – Get organized
When you enroll in online courses you are responsible for yourself - there is no one to personally remind you about assignments and tests. To combat this lack of informal reminders, it is important to get organized and create a system to remind yourself of your daily tasks.
In online classes, course work is mapped out in advance, so make sure to keep track of when assignments are due and how much time you need for reading or other work related to the course. Setting aside time each week to focus on your work will help you keep a regular schedule and avoid any last minute scrambles.
Rasmussen College Online Adjunct Instructor April Ray, who has a background of being both a student and an instructor in online classes, had advice to share.
“I would set reminders on my phone and would schedule time each day to check the discussion boards and my email to make sure I kept up with everything,” said Ray. “I tried to think of it like exercise. If you set aside 10 to 15 minutes every day you’ll get results.”
Tip #2 – Finish discussion posts early
A good portion of online class participation is from weekly discussion posts. While it may be tempting to treat these discussion posts as an assignment and not complete them until the last minute, your class experience might suffer. Instead, try to get your discussion posts completed as soon as possible and become an active participant in class. Some of the most valuable learning experiences come from viewing a subject from another perspective and using that to challenge your own views.
“If you get a discussion post up early, you’re more likely to get responses and that lends itself to a more in depth discussion of a topic,” said Ray. “These discussions can be really eye-opening and spark a lot of curiosity so it’s important to not wait until the last minute to submit your post.”
Tip #3 – Ask questions
In an online class, do not hesitate to ask questions if you’re struggling with a subject. It’s true this applies to any class, traditional or online, but in an online class you can’t sit back and hope someone else in the room asks the question for you. Being proactive with questions will not only give instructors time to respond but also prevent that uncertainty from snowballing into a bigger problem – sometimes something that may seem like a minor detail in one lesson will get built on substantially in future lessons.
“In online classes students tend to feel anonymous and afraid to ask questions because they assume everyone else understands the subject and they are the only one who doesn’t,” said Ray. “You have to change your mind set and not be afraid to ask questions. It’s likely most of the class is asking the same questions and as an instructor I’d rather have a student ask a lot of questions since it shows you’re engaged.”
Tip #4 – Try not to procrastinate
Sometimes with a busy schedule procrastination is unavoidable, but waiting until the day an assignment is due to get started can be a recipe for disaster. When you’re scheduling your week, try to put aside more than one block of time in advance for larger assignments. Even if you don’t get as much done as you’d like in the earlier scheduled work times, putting a dent into an assignment ahead of time makes for a much less stressful due date. Also, if you finish an assignment early you have a chance to comfortably review your work and catch mistakes that otherwise would slip by if you were rushed.
Tip # 5 – Get ahead of schedule
Online classes are especially appealing to students who are working full time, however it can be challenging to get motivated to do schoolwork after a long day at work. One way to avoid this motivational drain is to get work done ahead of schedule. Assignments for the week are typically posted the weekend before they are due, so the opportunity is there for you to get the majority of your work for the week done in advance. This helps to keep the stress of the work week from impacting your academic performance.
Ready for success
Congratulations, you’re now ready to tackle even the most demanding of online classes. Whether it’s asking questions or scheduling out your week, the key is to be proactive and to stay engaged. A little bit of effort can go a long way toward success in online courses, so don’t let a lack of it drag you down.
Share your advice
If you’re a pro when it comes to online classes, feel free to share any advice or tips you have in the comments below.