Many students prefer online learning or the virtual format, and the reason most cited for that is flexibility. However, it is this very notion that often leads to procrastination or a somewhat carefree attitude resulting in poor performance. For students considering online courses over in-class instruction, here are ten tips for success in the online classroom.
- Confirm technical requirements – Online classes can often be more challenging because students who take them have very busy schedules. They assume signing on and accessing materials can be a quick process when in fact requirements differ and figuring all that out takes time. Students need to test their systems and learn to navigate their online environment so they can easily access class materials and resources that the instructor has posted. Learning the technology is key.
- Read the syllabus – Students should read the syllabus early on as it is the course contract and essentially the road map for the course. Highlight important dates and pay attention to readings and assignments as explained on the syllabus.
- Connect with instructors early – Instructors can often provide valuable information and tips that can help student succeed including helping with writing, research, and pointing students to additional resources.
- Create a schedule and plan weekly study times – An online course can mean more flexibility but it also means keeping close track of when assignments and online postings are due. Most students have extremely busy schedules so it is important to establish a consistent study schedule and create time blocks during which there are no interruptions.
- Log onto the course at least three times a week – Form a habit of checking-in consistently which can help with reminders about assignment and test dates. Instructors also post changes and additional information online throughout the course. Students should read discussion posts, instructor announcements, and review course materials. It is also an opportunity to get involved in the class and be an active participant in discussions.
- Stay organized – Students should keep their materials and class notes in one place for easy retrieval – a physical location and/or virtual location. A calendar with due dates should be kept to facilitate organization.
- Ask questions – Students should be sure to ask questions. Sometimes instructors cannot anticipate what might be needed by students so asking may even answer the question for many other students. It may also lead to clarity and understanding which can change the entire experience for students.
- Make connections with fellow students – With all the social media tools and applications available now, it is easy to form an online study group or connect with others in the class. Collaboration can lead to great discussions which can help immensely when trying to understand concepts. This is also a great way to get involved and build a stronger learning community.
- Have a consistent study space – Regardless of whether a class is face-to-face or online, students need a quiet place to study. This might be a study room or a coffee shop, but whatever it is must be free of distractions.
- Speak up – Students must ask for help if they fall behind. Instructors are always willing to help when they know a student is serious about the class and is doing everything they can to succeed but students need to be proactive in their learning.
The most important factor in doing well in an online course is a student’s own desire to succeed. Incorporating these strategies with a strong motivation to learn will lead to a more successful and rewarding learning experience.