As college classes move online and distance learning becomes the new normal, Colorado Mountain College wants to give you the tools you need to succeed in a digital classroom. Online classes are generally more flexible and accessible than a traditional college setting. With that flexibility, comes other unique challenges. These tips for taking online classes will help college students make the most out of their online learning experience.
1. Take it Seriously
Contrary to popular belief, online classes aren’t ‘easier’. Learning online is the same amount of work as a classroom setting, but with more flexibility to learn in your own space, and sometimes on your own time. That same freedom can make online classes seem like less of an engagement but it’s important to give distance learning the same level of commitment you would to a traditional class.
2. Take Responsibility for Your Learning
Every college class is what you make of it. Without a professor to remind you about due dates and projects, it’s not hard to let assignments slip and fall behind. Set goals, and reminders. Check-in periodically to evaluate if you’re achieving those objectives.
3. Time Management
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time you need to study for class – especially when you don’t have a set day and time dedicated to that course. Plan your week around your academic and professional commitments. Designate times for each class, including participation, homework, and study time. Look at the syllabus, mark important dates on your calendar, and set reminders for assignments.
4. Discover your Learning Style
Many students excel in online courses, because it works best for their learning style. Consider what you need to accomplish your best work and retain knowledge. Some students prefer to learn in the morning, while others are inspired at night. Visual learners like to consume information through video, others will replay audio clips of lectures. Some students prefer to hand-write notes while others always type them out. Think of this as an opportunity to get to know your learning style best, and structure your class around that.
5. Create a Study Space
Designate a specific area for class time. Whether it is at a desk, on the kitchen table, or sitting cross-legged on the floor of your camper van, it’s important to create a space for learning. Similar to discovering your preferred learning style, experiment with different settings to improve productivity. Other things necessary for an optimal study space: high-speed internet connection, computer, course materials/ text books, headphones for listening to lectures or tuning out background noise, and perhaps a cup of coffee or tea.
6. Minimize Distractions
Eliminating distractions is best, but sometimes we are forced to share space with others and cannot control noise around us. When that happens, use headphones with calming music to block sounds and politely ask those around you to give you space to study.
There are many distractions that we do have control over, like technology. Turn your phone on silent to ignore notifications and texts. Resist the urge to surf the web or check your email. If you’re having a hard time minimizing technological distractions, you’re not alone! You can enlist the help of apps to block websites and social media platforms, or build mini-rewards into your study schedule – ‘I have to finish three pages of this essay before I can check Instagram.’
7. Don’t Multitask
“To do two things at once is to do neither.” -Publilius Syrus
Multitasking is a myth. If you can’t give your whole attention to your online class because of another obligation, take a break from the class. Retention is directly related to the ability to focus. Think about the last time you tried to read a book while someone was talking to you – or having a conversation nearby. These distractions dilute your learning experience.
Most online discussions require each student to post an original comment to the discussion topic and to comment constructively to at least two of her or his classmates’ postings. Be invested in adding value to the discussion. Not only will your professor recognize your effort, but you will enhance the lesson for yourself and your peers.
“The collaborative learning only happens when students are engaged and responsive during each week,” says Dr. Spaulding.
9. Connect & Ask for Help
College connections can become lasting friendships. When we remove the face-to-face element of classroom time, it’s easy to miss out on these relationships. Make an effort to get to know your professors and peers online. Do more than participate in online discussions, reach out to your peers directly to check-in and discuss assignments. Create virtual study groups and share resources. If your course is going from in-person to virtual, think of this as an opportunity to expand your network and make new friends.