Tips for Taking Online Classes

There are many advantages to online courses, most importantly allowing you to learn whenever, wherever, and however works best for you. 

Online classes can be an excellent alternative to a traditional classroom setting, and here are some tips to get the most value out of your class.

1. Realize your online course is a “real” course.

Treat your online classes the same way you would a face-to-face class—or, better yet, a job—and you’ll start this journey off right.

Be disciplined and dedicated. Show up to class, prioritize your assignments, and follow through in their completion. Online classes can allow you to be flexible as to when you choose to complete your work during the week, but you still have to make time to log in and participate.

2. Set goals, manage your time, and hold yourself accountable.

It’s up to you to make sure you’ve allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due. While the flexibility to create your own schedule is a big perk for taking an online class, but without good time management skills, it can also be detrimental.

  • Use a calendar (paper or online/digital) to map out your assignments.
  • Check your calendar daily so you know what is due now and in the weeks ahead.
  • Pencil in your other activities that may interfere with your regular study schedule, such as work, children’s activities, etc., to give yourself enough time to complete assignments.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums.
  • Make your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • Periodically, look at how you’re spending your time and how it compares to your results (grades). Do you need a little more time in certain areas?

3. Choose a regular study space and stay organized.

Routine is key. It doesn’t matter what space you choose to be your “classroom”, but it can help you focus on your class and stay organized. Knowing exactly where books and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals.

If you share space with others, you may consider using headphones to listen to lectures or discussions.

4. No distractions

Avoid multi-tasking—which can actually decrease your productivity.

It’s easy to think about all the things we need to do at home (dishes, laundry) or want to do (social media, movies), but these distractions can derail your studies. 

  • Consider turning your cell phone off (or at least the sound) to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up.
  • Focus on one assignment at a time, one task at a time, i.e. studying for an exam, reading a textbook, emailing an instructor, or participating in an online forum.
  • Concentrate on tasks that need doing now and avoid (or plan for) anything too far-off.

5. Make this class your own

This is your class, so set it up with a schedule that meets your needs and around your work schedule, family schedule, etc. If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. Have more time in the evening? Set aside time after dinner to do your work. 

Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what works for you. You may want to print out information in stead of just reading it online. Watch lectures or videos and take notes on paper instead of your computer. You may have to try out different things to see what works best for you.

6. Participate!

Participate in the class with activities laid out by your instructor; it will help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates.  Read what other students and your instructor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification. 

Check in as often as you can, too. Set a goal to spend a few minutes checking on the class discussion threads every day.

And if you do feel yourself needing help, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues. Email your instructor and be proactive in asking for help.

7. Working together

While you may be in a room by yourself, online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

For those beginning an online course mid-semester, you may already know many of your classmates. If not, introduce yourself! Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. 

8. Using Blackboard Learn

If you haven’t taken an online class before, the training below will teach you the basics of using Blackboard Learn which is your “online classroom.”

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