As a college professor, I have taught in a variety of settings, in-person, hybrid (partially online and partially in person), and entirely online. Each mode of instruction has its benefits and things that make it an excellent way to learn. Virtual learning can be done anywhere at any time, so taking online college classes means you can take classes around your work schedule, which can be helpful. While there are benefits to all types of learning, there are also different strategies for being successful in that setting.
As we are preparing for the possibility of online learning in the fall, I’ve put together some simple tips to apply for high school and college students to get the most out of their virtual classroom.
Make a schedule and stick to it!
You rarely FIND time to work on homework because there are so many other fun things you’d probably rather do. Instead, you need to MAKE the time to work on your classwork. Treat your online course as a regular meeting class, and do your work for that class at a consistent time every day or every other day. Make sure you do not schedule other things at that time.
You are in charge of your online learning!
This is really true for any college class you take, but it’s especially true for online learning (high school and college both!). You are in charge of your learning—you get out what you put in. If you want to do the bare minimum or skip through things, then you can do that because no teacher is watching over you, making sure you sit and stay for the full class time. This can be problematic, especially for younger people because they lack self-motivation, but once you figure out that your success is dependent on you, the better your online learning will be and the more you’ll get out of the course.
Make sure you have all your materials ready to go!
Double-check that you have the necessary online learning tools that you need. Does your class visit a website regularly? Make sure you’ve browsed that to look at things within the first week of class. Do you have to download some sort of software? Do that BEFORE your assignments are due. It would add a lot of unnecessary stress if you were to have homework due in an hour and find out you have to download software that could take up to 2 hours to download, or you have to submit a request that could take 48 hours to receive. Therefore, make sure you are set to go—ideally on day 1—with all of the materials for the course.
Communicate with the instructor!
In a typical classroom, instructors are trained to see confused looks on students’ faces. But with online learning, instructors cannot tell if you understand the material. It is up to you to reach out. I promise that teachers and professors WANT to answer your questions. They want you to understand the material. It also makes the class better for you because you’re less confused. Win-win!
Take a break!
Screens are draining, learning can be tiring, and we all need and deserve a break. Take a break and recharge. Often times students will “brag” about spending 8 hours studying. They are most likely not telling the truth because your brain cannot spend that kind of time productively studying. In fact, this is also likely to be a major time-waster from learning experts. Spend quality time studying (20-30 minutes without distractions like social media, emails, etc.) and then take regular breaks. You will feel better mentally, physically, and likely your grades will improve from a better, more productive way to study.
Online learning can be tough.
It takes time to learn how to learn virtually.
Give yourself some time to learn how to do this but know that online learning is not the same as in-person classes, so you will likely have to go at it a different way.