7 Tips to Succeed in Your Online Classes This Fall
School is challenging enough already, but when you add all or mostly online classes to the mix due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it can feel practically impossible. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you can't ask your teacher or professor questions during the lecture, or compare notes with the people sitting next to you, or if you have problems with internet connectivity. My advice (as someone whose last semester of college was entirely online)? Try to treat your classes exactly the same as you would if they were in person. Make them a priority, schedule them into your day, and get excited about them. After all, you're still getting to learn really cool and necessary stuff, so use this as a chance to really focus and succeed this semester.
Fall 2020 doesn't have to be something you grit your teeth about and try to get over — it can be the semester you finally master something, decide on a major, qualify for a college scholarship, raise your GPA, what have you. The possibilities are endless. Ahead, you'll find more tips to help you make the most of online classes to have a strong semester in an unprecedented time.
Find a Quiet Place to Study
Pop quiz! It's almost class time, do you (A) open your computer on the couch while your binge-watching The Office at the same time?, (B) sit at the dining room table while your siblings or roommates wander around making breakfast and talking?, or (C) find a spot in a quiet room to set up alone? (The answer is C, no matter how great the other two options are.) Think of this way: studying with no distractions will help you focus and get through the material more effectively, meaning you'll be done quicker and can move on with your day.
Get Out of Bed
Maybe you don't want to buy a new desk or you just prefer the coziness of your warm bed. Either way, you shouldn't study, listen to a lecture, or write a paper from your bed. Not only will this end up hurting your back or neck (posture is important!), but also, research shows that it is harder to focus on your work while sitting in bed and harder to fall asleep at night if you associate your bed as a place to study.
Make a Schedule
While it might be tempting to roll out of bed, attend your first class in your pajamas, then take a three-hour lunch break, it will actually help you to have a schedule. If you have lectures or quizzes that you need to attend at a certain time, add those to your calendar first. Then, figure out how much studying/writing/research time you need and set aside time to do that throughout the day. Give yourself plenty of breaks to stretch, go for a walk, and, yes, watch a little TV, and then get back to it. Try to have set start and stop times in your day as well, so you can give yourself a break and time to recharge at the end of the night, knowing you will be back at it in the morning.
Organize Your Class Materials
Whether you're in a dorm room or living at home, keeping your desk organized and your class materials all in one place will help you succeed this semester. Sure, you don't have to lug heavy textbooks to class — but you shouldn't have to search for them underneath drink coasters or piles of laundry either. Keep all your books, notebooks, pencils, chargers, and anything else you may need next to your desk, so it's always handy when you need it. You can also add some things to your desk and surrounding area that make you feel happy and calm (always helpful before tests). You don't have to Marie Kondo your life; simply having a tidy, organized space will help you stay focused.
Take Notes – Yes, Really
Even when I was taking in-person classes, I got teased for taking notes — hand-written notes with a pen and paper. Many students thought they could get by with typing notes on their computer or simply recording the lecture and listening to it later. But come test day, I could actually picture the answers based on where I wrote it down on my notebook and in what color pen I used, which helped me learn the material better and ace the tests. Even if you aren't a visual learner, taking notes will allow you to focus (no toggling back and forth between lecture and Word document) and keep all your notes in one notebook. Plus, research shows that actively writing things down is actually a more effective way to learn and remember something.
Make sure your water bottle is always in reach during your online classes. Drinking enough water is good for your physical health, but it also helps improve your focus, makes you feel calmer, and lowers your anxiety (all super important things when you are working on online classes).
Utilize Your Professor’s Office Hours
Going to your professor's office hours, even if that's just setting up a Zoom call, is one of the most important things you can do this semester. Every time I did this in college, it helped me. There's something about talking to your professor one on one, asking questions about things you struggled with, or getting clarification on an assignment, that is just so nice. There's really no excuse not to — your professor's office is just a phone call away!