Treat Online Coursework Like a “Real” Course
When it comes to online learning, you need to have the discipline to sit down and say, “I am going to work on this,” as well as a plan to follow through. Though online courses provide more flexibility, such as allowing you to decide when to listen to lectures or review PowerPoint slides, you can’t constantly push off doing these things. A recommendation is to try to stick to your traditional, in-person class schedule, and engage in your online courses at the same time that you would be attending class on campus.
Hold Yourself Accountable
When taking an in-person class, the instructor will often remind you of due dates for assignments, exams, papers, etc. This might not always be the case when taking online courses. Be proactive and look ahead in the syllabus to identify any important due dates. This way you will be able to avoid starting papers/projects at the last minute, and also give you time to communicate with your professor about any questions you may have about the assignment.
Practice Time Management
Create a weekly or daily schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week or day to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in discussion groups/posting on discussion boards for each of your online classes. Set reminders in your phone, planner, or Google calendar to help you stay on track. Ask yourself the following questions as self-assessment: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.
Create a Regular Study Space and Stay Organized
It’s very tempting to stay in your nice, comfortable bed while watching an online lecture. But ask yourself: is that really the best setup for active learning? Setting up a dedicated space to complete your school work will help you stay focused on the lessons, keep your materials organized, and get you into the right frame of mind for active learning. This space could be a home office, the kitchen table, or any other space that will discourage you from getting distracted…or dozing off.
Make sure your study space includes the following:
• A high-speed internet connection
• The required books, materials, and software for the course
• Headphones for listening to lectures or discussions (especially important in shared spaces)
Netflix, YouTube, text messages, and social media are just some of the many things that can be a significant distraction while taking online courses. Identifying your distractors will help you plan how to avoid them when working on your online classes. One suggestion to lessen these distractors is to turn off your phone before starting your coursework. This way you won’t have to worry about it buzzing with a notification every few minutes. Another tool to combat online distraction is to install website blockers on your internet browser. Two programs you can consider are Cold Turkey and Freedom which can help eliminate distractions by blocking the apps or websites that tend to compete for your attention, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Figure Out How You Learn Best
Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what types of information help you best grasp new concepts and employ relevant study strategies. If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio and video-based course content.
Utilize Your Network
You may feel that you’re on your own when taking an online class. Keep in mind that the same students you were taking in-person classes with for the first half of the semester are also taking the class with you! Don’t hesitate to form study groups using platforms like Skype or FaceTime to keep in contact with your classmates.
Meet with a Learning Instructor
Learning Instructors are available to meet with you, either by telephone or virtually through BlueJeans. Learning instructors can help guide you through the transition to online classes, and also help you with time management, study skills, project management, etc. Please call 215-573-9235 to schedule an appointment.
By Staff Writer: Jordan Yanoshik, Learning Instructor for Students with Disabilities