Top 10 tips for taking an online class

By Miranda Holloway

As a rising junior and certified old lady, I have taken my fair number of online classes with mixed results. I’ve loved them because of their convenience and hated them because of their busy work. 

The struggles I’ve experienced with online classes have been almost exclusively my fault. In the wisdom gained through my old age, I’ve compiled 10 tips to help others prepare for and succeed in an online class.

1. Do your research

You should do this for all classes. Find out what previous students thought of this class. Don’t limit this research to just online discussion boards. Ask older students what they know about the course and professor to get a variety of opinions. 

Generally, the people who go to websites to rate classes and professors are only doing so because they feel incredibly strongly. No one writes a review for a restaurant when they had an average time, and the same goes for classes. These websites are where the people with vendettas go to let out their rage.

2. Mentally prepare

All of the online classes I’ve taken have not lasted the entire semester, meaning they are fast and furious for either the first or last eight weeks. As silly as it sounds, know when your online class starts and be ready to have to change your daily routine to accommodate the work. 

Students who try to fit second eight week online classes into their already established routine are often overwhelmed, so be prepared for the upcoming sacrifice or stress.

3. Read the syllabus

Again, you should be doing this for all your classes, but this is especially important for online courses. In a traditional classroom, professors will slip in reminders about upcoming assignments or weekly requirements. This isn’t always true for online courses. 

Reading the syllabus will give you a better idea of what is expected on a weekly basis. Don’t kill your grade because no one told you to comment on discussion posts. If it’s in the syllabus, you have no one to blame but yourself.

4. Make a schedule

After reading the syllabus, write in a planner or calendar a schedule of what work you should complete on each day. This prevents overloading work onto one day and helps you see how the work for your online class might interfere with your other classes. 

It also puts into perspective how you can best break up the work over multiple days. Even having discussion posts, readings and comments broken up over multiple days makes the classes much more manageable.

5. Find a place

This has been my biggest struggle in online classes. It turns out that the top bunk of a dorm room is not a great place to learn biology. This was as disappointing as it was frustrating. 

Just because you can take an online class from wherever you want doesn’t mean you should. Find a place where it isn’t easy to get distracted by other people or by other tabs. I’ve found the best bet to be a vaguely public place, like a library or Illini Union. It’s quiet enough to get work done but public enough that you don’t want to be caught creeping on that boy in your stats class’s Facebook.

6. Close distracting tabs

As shocking as this may sound, Netflix is not acceptable background noise for learning, not even if you’re watching Criminal Minds and working on an online criminology class. Avoiding internet distractions is a struggle for all homework assignments, but it’s even more tempting when your homework requires you to be on the internet. The best solution to this is either willpower or acceptance. Have a homework buddy to berate you every time YouTube is on your screen. Tell them not to respond to the 100 BuzzFeed quizzes you send them.

7. Find someone else in the class

One of the underappreciated benefits of traditional classrooms is the connection with other classmates. Even if you don’t know someone in the class at the beginning, there are other people in the same space as you a few days a week learning the same thing that you can ask for help. 

Online classes, on the other hand, are isolated experiences. Either seek out someone else taking the class or sign up with a reliable friend.

8. Take notes

Repeat after me: I will not copy and paste the slides and try to pass them off as notes.

Thank you. This is what killed me in many online classes. I would just copy and paste the presented text and be done with it, always telling myself I’d study from them later. The only thing I learned from this was how to copy and paste really fast.

9. Ask questions

Online classes can be an isolating experience, and it may feel like you’re figuring everything out on your own. Remember that even if you’ve never seen the professor’s face, they are still there to help you. Some classes even have T.A.s. Shoot them an email or see if they have office hours.

10. Be honest with yourself

Online classes are not for everyone. If you’re someone who gets easily distracted or needs competition or encouragement from classmates to succeed, online classes might not be the best choice. Also remember that online classes are just like traditional ones. Just because they’re not in a classroom doesn’t mean they’re not a real time commitment. Keep this in mind to make sure you’re not overloading. Your GPA will die an ugly death because you didn’t give that class the time it deserved. Tweet: Don’t get crushed by an online class. Follow these 10 steps to success.

Miranda is a junior in Media
[email protected]