By Danielle Wirsansky
With the pandemic in full swing, most colleges and universities in the U.S. have transitioned almost all of their classes online for the foreseeable future. Some students revel in online classes. They love having the flexibility to work from home and to work in the hours they want to work without having a commute involved. Other students really struggle with online classes because they find working from home difficult, they learn better from in-person instruction or need a schedule to keep them disciplined. A number of students fall in between. They neither prefer nor dislike online classes, but they perhaps do not quite thrive in them.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum of preference for online classes, you can always find ways to do better and improve the way you go about your studies to help you learn the material better, stay focused, and get good grades. Read on for some tips for acing online classes!
Read the Syllabus
It might seem pretty obvious or overly simple, but the very first thing you should do for any class is to read the syllabus. You would be surprised how many people do not actually look over the syllabus, or if they do, they don’t read it very thoroughly. The syllabus is supposed to be your guide for the entire semester. It tells you what you are doing, when, why, and how. It should tell you basically everything that you need to know for the class.
That is, if it is a well-written syllabus. Not every syllabus is well-written, but hopefully, yours is. Anytime you have a question about your schedule, check the syllabus. Anytime you have a question about an assignment, check the syllabus. How long does it need to be? What is the prompt? Where do you find the materials for it? How do you turn it in? Are there any rigid specifications for it? Check the syllabus! How do you contact the teacher? When are their office hours? Check the syllabus!
When you need to know something, do not blindly go through your online education portal clicking tabs or go ahead and email your professor. Wait until you have scoured through the syllabus for your answers. And if it is not there, then you can proceed. Just read through it and give yourself a heads-up of what is to come and the general knowledge of the class that you will need to be successful.
Note the Deadlines
In an online class, it is incredibly easy to let deadlines creep up on you or even pass you by before you even know it. No one will be reminding you about it in class unless you have live lectures, and even then they might not. And if you are not watching or attending the lecture attentively, a professor’s reminder could easily be missed.
Make sure that you note the deadlines. However you need to do that or find doing that to be most effective, do it. Find writing things down in your planner most effective? Do it. Making reminders on your phone? Do it. Filling it out in your online calendar? Do it.
Keeping all those important dates in your head is not the best way to navigate your online class, especially if you are taking multiple classes. You do not want to fail a class because you never turned anything in. Otherwise, what was the point?
While strategy number one told you that you should not immediately email your professor with a question, that was in regards to asking questions that could be answered by the syllabus. However, you should not be afraid to message your professor with thoughtful, relevant questions and comments. Did you enjoy a particular topic your professor introduced and you would like to know more about it? After further reflection, did you find that you had a question that you felt the lecture, the textbook, or even googling did not answer? Do you have a question about the field at large your professor is engaged in rather than the class? Email them!
Especially if you need extra support, do not be afraid to email your professors and ask for the help that you need. Their job is to support you and answer your questions. Professors do not actively want their students to fail, so if they can reasonably help you out, they will. And connecting with your professor provides a face to the name, which helps to humanize you in the professor’s eyes.
Online classes can be tough. But knowing that and preparing for it is half the battle. Using these tips and strategies will help you navigate the world of online learning and keep your GPA and morale up even when the rest of the events of the world might be bringing you down.