I’m officially an Arizona State University Sundevil! I was accepted into their online program to finish my undergraduate degree. I’m a little embarrassed that I’m 26 years old and still getting my undergrad while a lot of my friends have already gone to graduate school, have great jobs, are getting married, and buying houses. But I’m proud of myself for having the perseverance to continue and get a college degree.
I started the summer semester and I’m loving the ASU online program. The classes are set up nicely and the teachers all seem very knowledgeable about teaching online. While I’m feeling very confident, online learning can be really challenging. I’ve struggled when I’ve only taken one course online and now I’m fully online. This requires a lot of self discipline and self motivation to be successful. Here are my list of tips on how to be successful taking online classes.
How to be successful taking online classes
Choose a program you’re interested in: This goes for any college student, but I think it’s more important in an online atmosphere. You rely on yourself for motivation to get your work done and it’s very easy to get sidetracked or lose your focus. It’s even easier to give up if you’re just not interested in the material. So study something that you’re going to be interested in enough to WANT to do the work.
Have a planner: This is an absolute essential for being successful in online courses. I love To-Do lists and writing out when assignments are due. Planners and to-do lists help me prioritize what I need to focus on and what needs to be done. I also just love the satisfying feeling crossing items off my list. I also like to set reminders on my phone when I have big assignments due or midterms. Just helps to keep me focused and on top of my schoolwork.
Plan/schedule time: Planning regular study time helps turn it into a habit or routine. And it’s easier to have time to study when you make time. It makes it a priority when you schedule the time to study. Jeff and I live together and he can get pretty needy of my attention, even though he supports me studying, and I’d rather hang out with him anyways. So I need to plan my study and work time when he’s gone at work.
Prioritize: This is so important for me. I love having to-do lists, they help keep me organized with everything. To-do lists remind me what I have to do and organizing/prioritizing them helps me to know what I need to get done first and when it needs to be done. I know I mentioned this above in having a planner, but it’s so important to me that I had to put it in here again. I often forget things if I don’t have them written down.
Create a work place: This is probably the most important piece of advice to being successful taking online classes. While working on the couch is probably more comfortable, it is not conducive to learning. Or being productive. I personally feel more like I’m lounging and I’m more likely to browse the internet or do some online shopping. Working at a desk (or even the kitchen table) just makes me feel like I’m being productive and studious and I’m much more likely to focus on my work. It creates a much better working environment.
Put your phone away: My phone is a huge distraction. You don’t realize how much time you waste by responding to a quick text message which turns into a long conversation. I also end up checking Instagram or Facebook notifications when they pop up. I like to put my phone on airplane mode, do not disturb, or leave it in the other room to charge while I’m studying.
Don’t procrastinate: Getting your work done early is very important to being successful taking online courses. What happens if you wait until the last minute and then have a problem or a question about the assignment? Most assignments are due by 11:59pm and I highly doubt your teacher will be online at 11:30 to help you. While a lot of programs are self paced, there are still due dates for assignments and only one day to take tests or quizzes. You don’t want to end up having a quiz or test due in an hour but have 100 pages to read because you waited until the last minute.
But don’t work too far head: While many online courses are self paced, some quizzes and tests won’t open up until the day they are due. Midterms often aren’t available before the date of the test to prevent cheating. If you’ve worked too far ahead, you might not remember the material.
Print syllabus: Even when taking online courses, I like to print out the syllabus or course schedule to keep on my desk. Having a hard copy readily available makes it easier to check daily and see what needs to be done and when assignments are due. It’s like a to-do list and it helps me because I like crossing things off when they’ve been completed.
Check online portal daily: It’s important to check the online portal daily for updates and announcements. You don’t want to miss changes to the schedule because you didn’t log in to check. Logging in to the school system daily helps to keep you focused on your studies by getting you in the school environment.
Communicate: You never meet your teacher or peers face to face so it’s important to communicate with everyone. Engage with discussion posts and ask or answer any questions. If you have an emergency, let your teacher know! Many teachers are understanding and are willing to work with you, as long as you let them know (this goes for students taking courses on campus too). It can be beneficial to make friends with people who you’ll likely see again in your online programs if you have questions or need help.
Participate: Actively participating is key to being successful taking online classes Everyone has different ideas and ways of understanding or explaining things. Many online courses require in depth discussion posts and require you to respond to two or three students. But read and respond to more than that. The more posts you read and comment on, the better you’ll understand the material. You discuss the material with many people and provide each other with different ideas. It helps you both. Maybe they have a better way of phrasing something or maybe they bring up a point you would have never even thought of.
Take notes: Just because the class is online doesn’t mean you don’t have to take notes. Actively listen to the lectures (if recorded) and take great notes now that you have the ability to pause and rewind. It’s easier to daydream or get distracted when you’re not physically in a classroom and on the internet, so keep the tv off and put your phone away.
Take breaks: And of course, it’s important to take breaks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a short break and come back. I like to watch a little tv, go for a walk, workout, have a snack, or take a nap to relax and unwind. You’ll lose your focus anyways if you try to work nonstop so take a break every now and then. I also like to take a weekend and go camping if I have the time. Or take a day to go fishing or do something outside because that’s what I find most relaxing.
Write down your goals: To help you stay on track and focused throughout the semester, write down your goals. It’s important to remember why you’re doing this and it will help you to be successful. It is also helpful to set short term goals to help you achieve the big one!
Enjoy: Honestly, online learning is so much better for me. I hate commuting and I hate sitting in a classroom with kids who are sick and spreading their germs or talking loudly during lecture. I also hate when people are watching videos, listening to music, or playing games on their phones. I prefer that I can learn from the comfort of my home. Online learning might not be for everybody, but it helps those who have families, need to have a full time job, or people who travel a lot or just have a busy life. I don’t mind putting my school work ahead of everything else, because it’s only temporary and the hard work will be worth it in the end.
And those are all my tips to be successful taking online classes. Obviously you won’t be successful if you sit around and don’t do any work. So make sure you stay focused and dedicated! How do you set yourself up to be successful taking online classes or working from home?