How To Succeed in Online Classes

by - Thursday, August 13, 2020


With many school districts going to remote, virtual learning this year, I thought it was important to write a post about my experience with online classes and the tips I can give to help you succeed online. If you're new here, I did graduate college in 2017 so, of course, some things have changed but I truly believe the advances over the past few years have only made it easier to learn and work online.

During both high school and college, I took a few different subjects online to accommodate my schedule between commuting and fast-tracking my education to graduate college in 3 years. I had a really good experience in almost all of my classes and did really well in all of them, but I am of the opinion that writing based classes {English, history, communications, etc} translate best into online learning, while math and science based classes are better taught in person. That's not to say it's impossible though! I had a finance class {very math-based} online as well as a home horticulture class {very science-based} online {which will go down in history as probably the worst class I've ever taken, but that's another story} and both of these classes turned out fine. I even took a gym class online so I have a wide range of experiences. So, without further ado, here are some tips that are relevant to any subject. 

+ Set aside a specific time and place for online learning.

This is definitely easier said and done when you only have one or two online classes in your schedule, but I think you can make it work for a full schedule of online classes. I don't recommend working in your bed or on the couch, set aside a dedicated workspace that is just for working so when you're in that zone, you aren't tempted to give into distractions. I also recommend creating some structure in your day by setting aside a specific time (either morning or afternoon) to work on each class.

+ With that in mind, be flexible.

Although structure is great, there are going to be days when you need some flexibility in your schedule, and room for flexibility is one of the best things about online learning. If one class has a big project or test coming up, you might need to spend extra time on it or you might want to spend the time right before the test studying. In this case, if you can complete tasks for your other classes early to free up that time, you definitely should.

+ Flashcards are great for vocabulary.

This seems old-fashioned and maybe obvious but there were very few times before online classes that I made flashcards unless they were a required assignment. However, when I took a Spanish class online during college, I really had to get it together FAST to start learning on my own. Unfortunately, there are going to be times when memorization will be the key to getting by, even if you don't fully comprehend it. If you have a class that tests mostly on vocabulary, start spending 5-10 minutes here and there going over those cards. I've done both virtual cards and physical cards and I don't have a preference, but I will say if you have tons and tons of words, virtual is probably the way to go! Create an account on Quizlet to make your own flashcards or browse through existing flashcards to see if your material has already been created and shared.

+ Don't go all digital.

No matter what choice you make with your flashcards, I highly recommend writing things down with paper and pen for some aspect of your classes. I always prefer a paper planner over a digital calendar, so that could be one option, and/or I would suggest you take notes during video lectures in a physical notebook. Maybe it's just my learning style, but it helps me so much to write things down. Even if it's just adding sticky note reminders to your workspace, keep some paper and pens around. 

+ Write down your schedule the first week and plan accordingly.

I can't tell you how many online classes I have been in that had big projects due at the end of the class that required weeks and weeks of work in advance. If I hadn't stayed on top of the projects from the start, I never would've been able to complete them within one week and definitely not the night before the due date. Get a good overview of what you need to do and start creating your game plan. That great home horticulture class I mentioned required me to take a sample of grass to an agriculture facility, PAY to have it tested, and write a report on the results they provided. It took weeks to get the results back! If I wasn't a self-starter who plans in advance, there's no way that could have gotten done.

+ Reach out to your professors or teaching assistants if you are struggling.

My very first semester of college, I had an online writing class. On the first paper I submitted, the grade was lower than I was expecting so I reached out to the TA to ask for advice on how to improve. She told me that I could email her my papers in advance for the rest of the semester and she would critique them before I turned them in, in case there was anything that needed adjusting. I sent the papers to her in advance for the rest of the semester and did great in the class. Of course, that meant having each assignment completed a week before it was due every time, but it was well worth the effort. Most of the time, people are willing to work with you if you show that you will go the extra mile.

+ Level up on accountability! 

Like it or not, you are so much more accountable for your success in online classes. You have to make yourself do the work, you have to make yourself watch lecture videos, prepare for tests, complete assignments on time, etc. There aren't going to be in-person reminders to turn in things or study for your test. Of course, your professors will communicate and post announcements for you, but they are not required to hold your hand. You really have to step up for online classes and start working on your time management skills and ability to work independently. It will be great practice for your future career! 


With all that being said, I personally liked online classes, but I am naturally a super organized person who enjoys working independently. I know it can be hard to adjust, but a little dedication goes a long way – simply participating and showing up to do the work puts you off to a great start! 

As always, you can feel free to reach out to me on social media if you have questions or want to know a little more about how to handle any situations discussed. Good luck with this new school year! I know you'll do great! 

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