8 Tips for Attending Online Classes
Attending classes online is convenient and saves you of lots of hassles such as traffic woes.
With recorded videos, shared notes, integrated quizzes and online assignments, online classes give you the flexibility and convenience that is unparalleled as compared to traditional in-person classes.
However, lack of physical contacts in online classes presents unique challenges and may hinder your learning outcomes, if you are not adequately prepared.
Here are eight tips and advice that can help you develop skills necessary to improve your learning through online classes.
1. Treat an online course like a “real” course.
When it comes to online classes, you need to have the discipline to sit down and say, “I am going to attend this class,” as well as the dedication to actually follow through.
Though you can have an option to watch video replay, please be mindful that attending classes as per schedule is much easier and fun.
You will get a better sense of questions answered and follow-through discussions. You will also be able to “raise hand” and ask your questions anytime during the session. You will be able to answer poll questions live and see what your peers are doing.
One of the easiest ways to ensure follow through is to remember that you are paying to take this online course, just as you would for a traditional, in-person class.
You must “show up” if you’re going to get real value out of your class. Treat your online classes the same way you would a face-to-face class and you’ll be off to the right start.
2. Hold yourself accountable
Set goals at the beginning of the semester, and check in with yourself weekly.
In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date.
You have something similar in your Class++ account. For every course, you can check the Assignments tab and find a list of assignments with respective due dates, as shown in the image.
Take advantage of this feature and give yourself enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due.
If you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in as an accountability partner.
By being organized, proactive, and self-aware, you can get the most from your online class even when life outside of school becomes chaotic.
3. Practice time management.
The flexibility of online classes is very appealing.
But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills.
Without them, you might easily find yourself cramming before classes or handing in subpar assignments.
Though how you manage your time will depend on your schedule, learning style, and personality, here are some universally valuable tips to help you practice and improve your time management skills:
3.1 Use calendar
Look at the syllabus at the start of the semester and make note of major assignments.
Mark the assignments on your calendar (Use Google Calendar if you don’t use anything already) so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead.
3.2 Schedule in advance
Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, taking quizzes and studying.
Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
Don’t forget to factor in prior commitments that may interfere with your regular study schedule, such as weddings or vacations, so you can give yourself enough extra time to complete assignments.
3.3 Pace yourself
When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
3.4 Keep a track
Check in periodically throughout the term, and look at how you’re spending your time.
Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams?
A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.
4. Create a regular study space and stay organized.
Set up a dedicated learning environment for studying.
By completing your work there repeatedly, you’ll begin to establish a routine.
Whether your study space is your kitchen table, a library, or the corner booth in a local coffee shop, it’s important to determine what type of environment will work best for you.
Experiment to discover which type of setting boosts your productivity.
Wherever you choose, make sure there’s high-speed internet access so you’re not trying to take an online course over a lagging connection.
Setting up a regular study space will also help you to stay organized.
Knowing exactly where important dates, files, forms, syllabi, books, and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals.
When setting up your study space, make sure you:
- Have a high-speed internet connection
- Have the required books, materials, and software for the course
- Have headphones for listening to lectures or discussions (especially important in shared spaces)
5. Eliminate distractions.
From Netflix to Instagram to dishes piling up in the skink, you’ll be faced with many distractions that can easily derail your studies.
To be effective, you will have to learn to lessen these distractions and set aside time to focus.
Exactly how much of a challenge these distractions will prove to be will depend on your own unique personality and situation.
Some might find that they can tune out a noisy home by listening to music.
Others might choose to work from a local coffee shop or library to eliminate their urge to multitask at home.
Ultimately, you will need to find a strategy that works best for you.
Regardless of where you choose to work, consider turning your cell phone off to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up.
And if you’re still having trouble resisting the temptation to check your Instagram or surf the web, try downloading a website blocker.
6. Figure Out How You Learn Best
Once you’ve established where you’ll learn, think about when and how you accomplish your best work.
If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing.
More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cozy up to your computer.
Brew your usual cup of coffee, put on your go-to playlist, and do whatever you need to get into the zone and down to business.
Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what types of information help you best grasp new concepts and employ relevant study strategies.
If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out Shared Class Notes to review.
Learn best by listening? Make sure to set aside time into your schedule to play and replay all video-recordings of classes.
7. Actively participate
Participate during the online class session to better understand course materials.
If your instructor has enabled “Private Chat” feature on Class++, you can engage with fellow classmates.
Ask questions on “Public Chat” and share your point of view.
“Raise Hand” to ask questions.
Listen to what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a follow-up question, ask for clarification.
Make sure you are checking in as often as you can, too. The flexibility of online learning means that if you have 30 minutes before dinner plans, you could squeeze in a discussion response around your schedule.
Set a goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day.
And if you do feel yourself falling behind, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues.
Email your professor and be proactive in asking for help.
8. Leverage your network.
Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Class++ is built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.
Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. Don’t be afraid to turn to them to create a virtual study group. Chances are good that they will appreciate it just as much as you will.
Dr Duleep Deosthale
Founder - HigherEdLab.com, PhD - UCLA