Many college students are unexpectedly dealing with the transition to online learning. Whether you just returned from study abroad and are continuing your courses online, or your college has closed campus and moved all classes to online learning, a majority of college students are currently experiencing the learning curve of online classes.
We recognize that the transition to online learning can be stressful, especially for those who are not familiar with taking courses online. Read through these tips to help you get started, remember to be patient with yourself and your professors as you settle into your new routine, and understand that online learning tends to require more structure and discipline. Students get out of it what they put into it.
The most successful online students are those who treat study like a job. Create a study plan and schedule that works best for you, set daily and weekly goals, and consistently stick with your plan.
The Study Plan
The advantage of online learning is the flexibility that comes with it. You have the freedom to create a schedule that works for you. Consider the following when establishing your study plan:
• Do you work best in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings?
• Do you prefer long periods of uninterrupted time? Or are you more productive in shorter blocks with frequent breaks?
• How much time do you estimate needing for completing certain types of assignments? Is your plan accommodating to additional/unexpected time needed for reading and study?
• Set aside time in your plan to plan, looking at the course holistically. If you have a clear idea of where the course is headed, future assignments, and how assignments build and relate to one another, you’ll feel more grounded when sitting down to work.
Scheduling and Establishing Routine
When you set up a study plan and schedule, put in the effort to stick to it and incorporate it into your routine, while also recognizing that you may need to make adjustments as you go.
To do this, we recommend that you:
• Inform your roommates or family of your intended blocked times for study.
• Choose a day near the end of the week to set goals and intentions for the following week.
• Be aware of time zone differences when reaching out to your professors and peers. You may need to make adjustments to your routine to make live meetings work.
Study Space and Eliminate Distractions
Your study environment will make all the difference. It is recommended that students designate quiet spaces free of any distractions as their study areas, but also think about what works best for you.
• Can you complete certain types of assignments with music or other background noise? Which assignments require absolute silence? Some students find music helpful, while others do not. Know what is best for you.
• Have a discussion with roommates or family about how they can minimize distractions if they need to come into your study space.
• Turn off your cell phone or keep it in a different room and only check it during a break.
• Limit social media use during your designated study time.
Practicing good study habits will help you succeed in your online courses. These include:
• Know (and use) your resources: take advantage of the many resources that are available to you and consistently communicate with your peers and professors throughout the remainder of the semester.
• Set a goal for each study session.
• Ask questions if you are struggling to grasp a topic. In an online learning environment, it is even more important to be present, engaged, and communicative.
• Set personal deadlines that fall a couple of days before course deadlines.
• If you need the incentive to complete course assignments or tasks, set up a reward system with yourself or peers from your class who are also trying to complete the same assignment.
• Avoid procrastination.
Physical and Mental Health
Tending to your physical and mental health is crucial for success in the online learning environment. Again, this requires discipline and self-awareness.
• During a study break, stand, walk around, exercise, shake it out, do what you need to do to reset and refocus.
• Consider purchasing computer glasses to avoid eye strain. Track your screen time on all devices and set your devices to change to “night mode” or “wind-down” mode automatically.
• Meal prep. If you know that your best times to study fall during a meal, take the time to prep a few meals so that this doesn’t distract you.
• Maintain balance and do not overdo it. Spend time with friends and family. When completing group assignments with peers take some time to socialize before getting down to business to maintain those relationships.
• If you feel overwhelmed by your classes, talk to your professors or program staff.
• Reward yourself for good grades or other accomplishments.
• Do your work when you are in the right frame of mind. Online learning allows for more flexibility to revisit a task or assignment when you are more focused if necessary.
Online learning is a new academic process for many students. Even if you’ve taken a class online before, it’s most likely much different when you’re now taking your entire course load online. Use these tips to help ease the transition, and if you have any additional tips for online learning, feel free to leave them in the comments for other students.