Being proactive, present, and purposeful as an online student

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Lexy Moscinski
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You find yourself sitting in the comfort of your home, your laptop resting in front of you. You pull up your online class and are presented with dozens of pieces of information. Thoughts race through your mind — “Where do I even begin? This is all so new…”

Click here to see the syllabus! Click here to watch this lecture! Check out your homework here via this link!

If you’ve never done online learning before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information presented to you. While you may feel like you are “on your own”, your connection to this virtual world will be based on both your efforts and your actions. Here are 13 tips to help you make the transition to online courses.

Be proactive

You may not be able to raise your hand to ask questions like you did when you were in a physical classroom, but in your new online world, you’ll still have many digital resources to stay ahead of the game. Make sure you’re utilizing them.

  1. Take time to click through your online course. What helpful things are being offered? Online tutoring? Writing center access?
  2. Start making a list of all the resources offered to you and keep it at your desk to refer to later.
  3. Review the syllabus thoroughly and note any questions you may have about the information provided. Review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of your class if one is provided, and if you have unanswered questions, reach out to the professor.
  4. Develop a personal calendar based off the syllabus deadlines so you can organize yourself effectively. You can use Google Calendar, Outlook, and more. You can also integrate personal dates on the calendar to see how your educational obligations match with your personal ones.
  5. Make sure you have a quiet, organized place to do your work — whether that’s an office at home or a library.

Be present

Your classroom life may now be behind a screen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t breathe life into every session you attend.

  1. Pay attention to when live lectures are offered. If they’re optional, still do your best to attend them — it will help you feel like you never left your physical classroom.
  2. Be active on discussion boards: This is a great way to start networking with other classmates and stay connected. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already, bounce questions off each other to be supportive, and take note of any helpful tips from your professor.
  3. Go to your professor’s virtual office hours, or give them a call if a number is provided. Sometimes students function better when they can put a face and voice to the person teaching them — make it a point to not just be another name on the class roster. Work to build a relationship with your professor by communicating with them often.
  4. Set up your own virtual meet-up sessions with other students. You can do this through Zoom, or whichever virtual meeting platform your classroom uses. Try sending out an email to your class to see if you can get some of your peers together to discuss how things are going and to support each other along the way.

Be purposeful

Being in a virtual classroom doesn’t mean you’re being let off easy! You must be purposeful, accountable, and self-motivated to be successful in an online world.

  1. Minimize distractions: When you are setting yourself up for study time, make sure the TV is off, your phone is put away (preferably in another room), and tell your family that it’s your study time and not to interrupt you unless they need to. If you’re studying in a public setting, such as a library, make sure you’re in a “no talking” zone, or rent a private room.
  2. Schedule break times because it can be very easy to get sucked into your work. Make sure you set a timer. Having a 15-minute break every hour can do wonders for your mental health and can help you absorb the material better.
  3. Make it fun: Listen to some study music in the background as you tackle assignments (if it helps you focus), ask a friend or family member to quiz you on your notes to facilitate some personal contact, and make sure you’re comfortable and have healthy snacks to keep your energy up.
  4. Take your work seriously — you may not be in a physical classroom, but you should act as if you are when you begin every study session. It’s up to you to take responsibility for your work and to appreciate the knowledge being given to you!

While transitioning to an online format can be intimidating at first, you will have many resources to ensure your success. Take your time to get adjusted but remember that you are not alone in your academic pursuits — reach out when you need support, set up virtual group meetings, attend office hours, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to reach your goals! Best of luck!