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4 Tips for Thriving In Online Classes

As the spread of COVID-19 increases, many universities have responded by closing campuses and shifting classes to an online format. This new class structure may be ideal for some, but for others it may be a stressful adjustment.  You can still excel amidst this abrupt disruption by developing a plan and strategy for navigating this change. It will help you both cope with this change and excel in your academics.

Here are 4 strategies you can incorporate as you complete your next college semester or quarter at home: 


1. Get organized by setting your goals and creating a weekly schedule that mimics your regular course schedule.

Even though you are home and have endless amounts of free time, commit to sticking to the same schedule you created while at your college/university.  Avoid the mindset, “I have plenty of time to get my work done.” This way of thinking will result in you waiting until the last minute to plunge through hours of online lecture videos and assignments in just a few days.  Since this course format is new, the key is to pace yourself. The best way to pace yourself is to organize your time. In creating your schedule, ask yourself these three questions:

(i) When will you watch online lecture videos? We strongly suggest that you complete online lecture videos during the same time that you would have been in a lecture hall.  Even if you signed up for an 8am MWF class, commit to watching these videos during this exact time. On the bright side, you don’t have to commute to campus or the lecture hall, so technically you still get to sleep in.  

(ii) When will you complete coursework and reading assignments?  Now that you have scheduled when you will watch online lectures, you can designate time for completing reading and course assignments.  If reading material was commonly assigned before each lecture, commit to completing that reading before watching online lectures. Make sure you allot enough time to complete coursework before moving on to the next lecture topic.  

(iii) Where will you work?  Now that you have a set schedule for completing your online lectures, reading, and course assignments, you're halfway there.  An equally important question you must address is the location of your workspace. This decision is important because it directly impacts your productivity and whether or not you stick to that schedule you set. Think about where you were most productive on your college campus and why. Use that information to create a space in your home that mimics the experience you need to be productive. If you watch online lectures in bed under the covers, there is a strong likelihood that you will fall asleep.  Instead, consider working at a desk or dining room table. You may have to be creative with this depending on your living situation. Even if you live in a studio apartment with a family of 3, you can still create a designated work area. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a chair in a quiet room or corner where you can read?

  •  Do you need music playing in the background?  

  • You may find that you read best on the couch, or in a chair, whereas you must sit at a table when watching lectures or doing assignments.  

We discuss how to select the right workspace that favors the task you are completing in another article.  

Once you have your schedule created and designated workspace selected, you are ready to face your online courses head on.  An important fact to remember is that even though you are physically isolated from your course instructors and peers, you should not remain socially isolated.  These next 2 tips are extremely vital to holding you accountable to maintaining your schedule and structure for completing your online courses. 

2.  Communicate with your course instructors regularly through online platforms.

Even though you may be miles away from your course instructors, they are still available to help you.  Office hours are still important to excelling in your courses. Many of your instructors and teaching assistants will host some form of virtual office hours or online discussion forum.  Take advantage of these! Even though you are out of sight, you should not be out of mind.  Engaging your instructors regularly is more important now than ever.  If they do not have online office hours, email them with questions you have.  You could even take the initiative to set up a video or phone call with them to discuss course material.


3. Stay connected with your peers.

Even though we are socially distant, take the extra effort to engage your peers in study groups, tutoring, and accountability virtually.  You do not have to tackle online classes alone. Students across the entire nation and many parts of the world are experiencing the same adjustment you are; therefore, avoid forcing yourself to tackle this new reality in isolation.   Even if you didn’t engage in these previously, just try it out! You may find that they fuel your productivity now.  

  • Consider scheduling a regular zoom accountability group, where everyone is working in silence with background music.  Even though there is no talking and everyone is in different locations, you will still feel connected.  You will be surprised at how this will dramatically enhance your productivity.  

  • Consider organizing a virtual social hour with a group of friends.  You could connect for a happy hour or do a workout routine together.  Perhaps, you can kick off that book club you were always interested in, but never made time for.  

These are just a few suggestions, but the options are endless, so explore!

4.  Be patient with yourself and your course instructors.

You have your game plan for structuring your course schedule and building a support system while you navigate this new way of pursuing a college degree.  The most important point to embrace is allowing yourself flexibility in adjusting to this change.  Do not beat yourself up if you don’t stick to your work schedule, if you sleep more than you usually do, or even if you realize that you haven’t spoken to a single friend in over a week.  It is okay. Accepting and adapting to change takes time.  

Understand that there were no systems in place just in case we experienced a pandemic.

In fact, while you are adjusting to online courses, colleges and universities are figuring out to create an entire new system to support this infrastructure.  Many of your professors and teaching assistants are teaching online courses and learning new technology for the first time. Therefore, patience is the virtue that you want to tap into constantly.  We are all learning, which means we are all failing over and over again. However, we can come out of this pandemic stronger than we went in as long as we keep trying.

You can and you will rock all of your online courses!  If you find that you are struggling to adapt to this new course structure or need help creating some sort of structure with all of your newfound free time, let us help you.  Click here to schedule a free 30-minute call with us.  This is our gift to the nation during this time.

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