Online classes require a different level of academic discipline than face-to-face classes. Most students have the impression that online classes are easier than regular classes, but this is just not the case.
Think of yourself doing an online class
- You must do the class without having a specific time and place to be that you would have in a regular class
- You are generally doing an online class when you have other priorities such as a job or even taking care of your family
- You don’t have the extra input that a teacher could give when students are struggling
- You don’t have the same type of support or face-to-face help from your fellow classmates
- You are often challenged by internet, computer, and general technological issues that are not as pressing in a regular class
- You feel more alone, isolated, and uneasy in an online course
Here are some strategies for being successful in an online class
- Set aside a specific time and place where you will do the online class. You need to absent yourself from others and you need to find a consistent time to do your work. Once you have established this routine, stick with it! It is easy to blow off an online course and think that you can make up the work later in the day or the week. This is a very bad strategy.
- Access and begin the course on the actual start date. It is very easy to get behind in an online class and it is much harder to catch up once you are behind. It is extremely important to start the course on the day that it begins.
- Most online teachers make their syllabi available prior to the start of the course. This is to give students time to locate and order textbooks. Take advantage of this early preview into the course and secure your textbooks early.
- Many online courses have a discussion component. Contribute early and often to the discussions. This is sometimes the only chance an online teacher will have to get to know you so it is important to express yourself often and clearly. When you do contribute, make comments that build on what others are saying. See the topic: Participating In An Online Discussion
- Students often feel anonymous in an online course. This can be both liberating and self-defeating. Remember to maintain the same politeness and formality that you expect of yourself in an in-person course.
- If you take many online courses you may not be building the same sort of relationship with your teachers as you would in regular courses. This may not seem like a big deal until it comes time to request letters of reference. Remember, for your teachers to write a strong letter of reference they must be able to reflect upon your academic work and also your character. So make a good impression in online courses by being very present, thoughtful, and taking initiative on projects.
- Don’t get behind. If you have a problem in getting an assignment done on time, let your teacher know in advance. If you have problem with internet access, you can also let your teacher know this, however, it is expected that you have reliable internet access and computer access throughout the course of the semester. Think of it this way: emailing your online teacher and telling her that you did not have internet access and therefore could not complete the assignment is like explaining to your in-person teacher that you could not complete the exam because you did not have a pen.
- Learn how to contact the campus Information Technology group should you have problem in using the online course platform. There always seem to be problems with some servers and platforms.
- Repeat: there are always problems with servers, platforms, and internet access. For this reason do NOT wait until the last minute to take exams or submit assignments. Get into the habit of submitting all of your work early. Most online courses allow you to submit assignments and even exams early. If you do this you will spare yourself a lot of stress.
- If tests are “open book” but restricted in the time to take the test, make a notes sheet that contains what you consider to be the key points. See the topic: Preparing a Cheat Sheet.”
- Make sure to read the message board and your email to read information from your teacher. Often the teacher will give the class useful guidance to help you.
- Find a study buddy that can help motivate you. Often you can nag each other to ensure the work is done before it’s due.
- Network. Online courses have a more diverse and often “mature” student composition. Meet your classmates. Many of them will be living outside of your state and even outside of the country. Many of your classmates are returning to school while working full time. They not only have many life experiences to share, they may also have some interesting career advice.
- Develop a strategy for reading the course material. In an online course, most of the learning will come from reading rather than listening. The strategy in the topic: Reading for Insight can be very helpful in making your reading more effective.
- Create a course “thermometer” to show your progress through the course. You’ve seen a thermometer to show fund raising progress. The same approach can be used to motivate you to complete the course on schedule.
- Don’t overload yourself. Students will often view an online course as an extra when scheduling. It shouldn’t be. In fact, online courses take a lot of time and you just can’t do an online course on top of an already heavy course load or in addition to extensive job requirements.
Since every online course has some unique characteristics, you should discuss the course you plan to take with students who have already taken the course.
Topic suggested by Ria Hermann, an advisor at West Virginia University..