This time of year, the school year is wrapping up for many students across the country however in light of circumstances, the end of the semester is anything but ordinary. Many students, including myself, have had to finish the year using online tools to mimic a classroom to complete assignments and examinations. The summer doesn’t always mean no school for students and since self-isolation is now in effect, many students are adding online classes to their summer schedule.
I have taken online courses in the past and they have been really beneficial in upgrading course grades that you maybe did not perform as well in, free up space in your timetable for the school year, or simply taking a class that interests you. Online courses aren’t just for university students, I encourage everyone with free time on their hands to take a course in something they have always wanted to learn like a language, history, art, science, law, or business and everything in between. It is a great way to keep busy during this time and invest in yourself simultaneously.
The issue is, taking an online course is different than taking classes in person. It requires a bit more discipline, organization and planning. In this post, I will be going over of a few tips that I learned in preparing for my courses before they even start!
Do Your Research!
Before you do anything decide the class you want to take. This is an obvious step but still really important. Look over the syllabus and determine if you can dedicate the time needed in order to be successful in the class. I totally get that not everyone has or wants to dedicate 3 hours to 2 lectures a week and countless hours of readings if they know it is not possible. Take note of the examination style of whether it is multiple choice, essay-based or participation and choose if it is appropriate to your learning style. Lastly, check the professor. By using websites like Rate My Prof, a website that lets you see previews of the instructor that are written by previous students, you can determine if the professor’s teaching style is right for you!
Read Syllabus & Record the Deadlines
After you have chosen the class, access the syllabus and write down the due dates or save them in your phone calendar. It is easy to forget due dates in an online course because you don’t physically go to class or even have the professor or peers reminding you of a test/paper date. Allowing yourself to see the deadlines physically in front of you, creates a feeling of accountability and awareness of the tasks that lie ahead. I personally use a mix of the written monthly calendar and Google Calendar to set reminders of deadlines.
Plan, Plan, Plan
To piggyback on the last point, the best way to prepare is the schedule the allotted times to completing reading, weekly and final assignments. This helps me create a routine similar to that of school so that I don’t fall behind (although, I am not immune to procrastination). If readings are due for next week’s class, I will pick 1 hour a day to chip away at the chapter, or pick one day where I will complete it all depending on the class style and amount of reading. If the lecture or tutorial Zoom call is scheduled for the same time every week, it is important you don’t miss it. In my case, however, the lectures could be watched whenever they fit best for the students. As a result, I schedule to watch it at 9:30 am on Wednesdays. It is important to keep the habit.
Decide on the Best Note-taking Method
It is hard to determine what the style of the lecture will be like before the class. However, you can decide if hand-writing, using a tablet, or typing your notes are the best for you.
I prefer handwriting in a notebook and keeping a word document of important definitions because a lot of my classes are tested heavily of definitions. Each class is different but I always find it hard to watch the lecture on the screen with the slideshow and type my notes all in one device, plus you memorize things better when it is handwritten.
Purchase or Download Any Textbooks or Software Needed
If the instructor specifies that a certain version of the software is needed, it’s best to download it and get it out of the way before the class. The same can be said for textbooks, and although getting things shipped in a timely manner is hard nowadays, check with your institution to see if they have an online version of course materials. For me, the only software I use is an app that allows me to annotate PDFs as most of my courses textbooks/ journals are online. I HIGHLY recommend and app or website that does this, it has been a lifesaver.
Connect With Other Students Taking the Course
In the glorious days of social media (or not so glorious depending on how you look at it) we have the opportunity to connect with all sorts of people. So see if there is a Facebook page or group chat with other students taking the courses. It can help to have other people that you know in your class, even if it is virtual. It provides a good opportunity to swap notes, answer each other questions, and practice the content (especially if it is a language class). If there isn’t a chat already started, you can start it! Chances are other students will be looking for one too.
I hope you found these tips helpful when planning out how to tackle online academics. Let me know is I missed anI encourage everyone, whether your a student or not to explore online learning classes. We are all life long learners, so it is important to nurture that trait and prioritize your passions and thirst for knowledge.