Earning a college degree is no easy feat. But adding online classes to the equation makes higher education arguably even more challenging, especially for those accustomed to in-person learning.
As summer winds to a close, students may be wondering how to succeed in online courses this semester. If you’re among the students logging onto Zoom instead of heading back to the classroom come fall, keep reading for our top success tips for online courses.
Top Tips for Taking Online College Classes Plan Out Your Class Schedule and Assignments
College students have a lot on their plates. What’s more, completing classes, assignments and study groups online can cause the days to blur and deadlines to slip by undetected.
Combat scheduling slip-ups by making good use of your calendar. Write in your class times, key deadlines and other activities to organize your day-to-day tasks. Color-coding each calendar block is helpful, too.
And don’t forget to schedule time for rest. If you have back-to-back classes, take an hour or so before your next study session to decompress.
Get Familiar with Your Technology
At the very least, you’ll need access to a computer and a stable internet connection to succeed in online courses. Familiarize yourself with your computer, and save yourself some stress by learning what to do if your internet goes down during class. It’s also a great idea to have a backup energy source in case your power goes out unexpectedly.
Most live online courses are conducted over Zoom. Your instructors may also post assignments on virtual communication boards like Canvas. Cruise around on these platforms before the school year to ensure you’re comfortable using them. Canvas is known to be confusing to many students—check out this handy tutorial video before classes begin.
Create Designated Online and Offline Times
College students spend an average of three to four hours per day online. Spending time online is unavoidable while taking virtual classes, but taking regular breaks from the internet can help alleviate stress and keep your mind sharp.
Take a look at your calendar. Are most of your classes slotted for the mornings? Do they take place in the afternoons? Block out designated times to be online, along with times to unplug.
Factor in that you’ll need time online to study, but try to limit unnecessary screen time. Having constant access to the internet can contribute to information overload and anxiety—two issues that college students deal with enough as it is.
Make a Routine
What do most successful people have in common? They create a daily routine, and they stick to it. Many of the world’s top entrepreneurs have an intentional morning routine that sets them up for success throughout the day. College students can do the same to maximize productivity levels.
It’s recommended to take advantage of the mornings. Even if you’re not an early riser, plan to get up at least an hour before you start getting ready for class. The extra time will create space for your morning routine, whether that includes meditation, exercise or making a strong cup of coffee.
If you’re more of a night owl, consider creating a mindful bedtime routine that allows you to start the next day with a fresh mindset.
Sign Up for Student Discounts
Most universities offer generous student discounts for a variety of products and services. Technology providers like Apple and Microsoft offer discounts to distance learners. Your local internet provider might, too. Check with your local transportation services, restaurants, utilities and grocery stores for discounts while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised to find out how much money you can save by handing over your student ID.
Create a Study Area
One of the most valuable studying tips for college students is to set up a designated study area. Our brains develop associations for each space we’re in, which helps us unconsciously assign purpose to those spaces. That means carving out a study area will help your brain readily switch to “study mode,” improving focus and productivity.
Another great studying tip for college? Make sure your space is comfortable and distraction-free. If you live in a dorm or with roommates, you may consider investing in noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to keep ambient noises from diverting your attention.
Consider Setting Social Media Limits
No one wants to hear it, but time spent liking memes online could be time spent studying instead. If you find yourself easily distracted by social media, consider setting time limits to keep you from scrolling endlessly.
Social media has addictive properties that can lead users to compulsive overconsumption, eating into their productive hours and potentially disrupting their sleeping habits.
Most smartphones have a feature that locks users off their social media apps once they’ve reached a designated time limit. You can also try downloading third-party apps, like Offtime and Freedom, that temporarily block access to social media and other sites where you set parameters.
Prioritize Health and Wellness
College is tough on both the body and the mind. Make sure you take care of yourself by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating nutritious meals. Don’t forget to take regular breaks from your computer, too.
Stretching your shoulders, arms and neck can help alleviate the pain associated with sitting in front of your laptop all day.
Prioritizing wellness not only increases productivity levels, but can also give your mental health a serious boost. You’ll feel better prepared to tackle your online courses and extracurriculars.
Research Available Online Resources in Advance
Universities typically offer an abundance of online resources to their students. However, there’s a high chance you won’t have the time or energy to seek them out once school starts.
It’s best practice to know where to go before the semester begins. Whether you’re seeking a counselor, tutoring sessions or financial aid, know where to look once classes start. You’ll thank yourself for having those resources at your fingertips once you’re in the throes of studying and exams.
Connect with Your Classmates
It’s no surprise that online classes can feel isolating. A 2020 study conducted by the United States Military Academy West Point found that many students feel disconnected from their peers and instructors in online courses. With little to no in-person interaction and constant Zoom meetings, it’s easy to see why.
Take the time to reach out to your classmates and form bonds over common interests. You may also consider joining clubs or study groups—either virtually or in person—that bring you closer to your peers. Connections made in college may even help serve your professional life down the line.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online College How long are online classes?
Most online courses run as long as their in-person counterparts. A one-hour English course taught on campus, for example, would also run for an hour online. If you’re taking an asynchronous course, however, you can complete the coursework at your own pace.
How much time should I spend on my online course per week?
Plan to spend at least three hours per credit every week on online coursework. Courses are typically three or four credits each. So if you’re taking three online classes and each is worth three credits, you’ll want to spend a minimum of nine hours per week on your coursework.
What are the advantages of online courses?
For starters, online courses are usually flexible. Students can theoretically join their classes from anywhere with a stable internet connection. That flexibility offers students greater autonomy and can make it easier to balance other personal commitments.