I’ve been in college forever (shout out to my fifth, sixth, seventh year seniors!), so I’ve taken my fair share of online classes. At first, I hated them. I missed assignments, slacked off and took the easy way out, but over time I have mastered the art of online learning. Everyone’s learning style is different and online classes aren’t the best option for a lot of people, but here is what has helped me and I hope it helps you all too.
Utilize a planner or calendar
Even if you’re not usually the planner type, it is so much harder to keep track of assignments, deadlines and due dates when you are not in face-to-face contact with professors and classmates giving you reminders a couple times a week. Even if you just make a list of due dates on a sticky note (real or virtual) every week, this is crucial to staying on top of online work.
Check your dang email
If you are not already a religious email checker, now is the time to become one. Especially since most of our professors haven’t taught online classes previously, chances are there will be syllabus updates communication about assignments, Zoom meeting invitation codes and more. I have also found it helpful to create separate folders in my email for each class. On Outlook you can “make a rule,” setting all emails from certain people to automatically go into certain folders. Keep it organized.
Keep a Schedule
When transitioning into online classes, it’s super easy to overwork or under work yourself. I’m guilty of getting distracted dragging out my classwork throughout the whole day when it should have only taken a few hours. Other people struggle with holding themselves accountable and actually doing the work when you don’t have to look a professor in the eye and tell them you didn’t do an assignment. To avoid both of these habits it is helpful to set a daily schedule detailing when you are doing work, for what class, when you are taking a break for lunch, getting up to move around and a time when you are definitively done for the day. Write it down. Hold yourself to it. You’ll thank me later.
Environment is everything
It is bad for your body and your brain to try to do all of your online work from bed (I say as I type this from my bed). But really — even if it means walking two feet from your bed to your desk, a change in environment is so helpful for getting your brain into learning mode. If you can, I recommend working somewhere near a window. Since we no longer have the luxury of walking across campus between classes, I find that being around natural light while I work keeps me awake and productive — being able to look out the window every few minutes keeps me from looking at my phone instead.
Don’t Google. Actually learn. Conduct yourself as you would in class
This is easier said than done — I know. But one day (eventually) we will be back in face-to-face classes (or in a workplace) and we will regret it if we’ve spoiled our brains by googling our way through online classes. Don’t get me wrong, Google is an extremely useful tool, it is just easy to abuse it when all of your work is online. This education costs enough: get your money’s worth and use your brain. If you are confused about the material you now have to teach yourself, make your professors video conference with you. Again — we are not getting a refund for our lost classroom time. Make sure you are learning just as much as you would be in person.
Above all, hold yourself to reasonable standards. These are crazy times and we’re all figuring it out together. And don’t forget to wash your hands.