Online learning tips for students to build confidence in navigating the online environment and taking advantage of the resources your school offers
U.S. colleges and universities have been put through the wringer over the last two months, transitioning to full-time online classes for students currently in school, and forecasting the financials if students do not return to campuses in the fall and all classes (that can) go virtual.
“There’s no question that the last few weeks have been tough on teachers, students, and parents across the country,” says Nicole Schulenburg who performs public relations outreach for Logan University in Chesterfield, Mo. “Hundreds of thousands of students were forced to transition to online learning for the second half of the spring semester, and for students taking summer classes or universities who operate under a trimester schedule, online learning is the new reality that’s here to stay.”
Online learning tips: From classroom to online
Transitioning to the online environment has proven to be a huge adjustment for many students according to education experts. Shyer students may migrate to the back in a physical classroom, and online it is even easier for students to sit passively and avoid participating, engaging with the material, asking questions and interacting with fellow students and the instructor.
“Participation in courses builds confidence in navigating the online environment,” says Stacia Rosen, academic success coach at Logan University, with success tips for students, speaking to Chiropractic Economics. “Ask for help if you need it. Sometimes it can feel like you don’t even know where to start when transitioning to the online environment. Take advantage of the resources your school offers. Reach out to your instructor if you have content-specific questions. Do you have a central point of contact such as an advisor or an academic success coach? If so, use them. Most schools have transitioned to the online classroom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember you’re not alone. Everyone is part of this steep learning curve. Ask for help. People want to see you succeed!”
Rosen says students need to make a distinct effort to get to know their classmates, reaching out to see if other students may want to discuss a particular topic together or study for an upcoming exam as a group. Students can utilize multiple video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Most online courses also feature discussion boards, which allows peer-to-peer collaboration and discussion about topics presented in the course.
Organization and time management
Time management is arguably more critical in online learning than in the physical classroom environment. Students in the classroom are often taking notes or give their full attention to the instructor without the option to “rewind” or play back a lecture. Students learning online have to learn to block out distractions in the home, or the lure of their phone or social media, or getting lost in searching the web for entertainment.
“The beauty of the online environment is the flexibility that it allows, but also ensuring you are making good use of your time is key,” Rosen says. “Students should treat an online course just as they would a face-to-face course. Set specific time aside each day to ‘go to class.’ Allotting certain time each day for particular courses assists students into getting into a new routine.”
Rosen has four online learning tips for time management:
Use a planner — What type of planner you use is completely up to you. Some students are tactile learners and do best with a paper planner. They want to touch the pages, write due dates in, and check something of a list. Others do better in a digital environment by using a Microsoft Outlook calendar, Google calendar, or the calendar feature in their Learning Management System. Use what’s best for you.
Put it on the calendar — Developing a calendar that lays out the entire term can be extremely helpful and can provide a visual of what your upcoming term will look like. At the start of each term refer to your syllabi for due dates for all of your assignments: readings, quizzes, exams, papers, discussion boards, projects, etc. In addition to your coursework, also be sure to include your outside obligations such as: doctor’s appointments, family get-togethers, vacations, etc. Including all assignments and activities will allow for advanced planning in your courses.
Get detailed and break it down — In addition to a term calendar, completing a calendar each week will assist you in budgeting your time appropriately. Break each day into hour increments. Start by adding in what you know. If you work out every morning from 5-6 a.m., add it to your calendar! If you know your kids have soccer practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-7:30 p.m., add it to your calendar! By including what you know is already scheduled, you can see what time you really have available to work on your courses.
Generate a to-do list — Prioritizing your daily tasks are key. What has to get done today? Any high priority items should be moved to the top of your list. Low priority items can be shifted to the bottom. Your list should include items that can be completed during a single designated work time, such as an hour. Be sure to allot yourself enough time to work on your different tasks. Be realistic with your time. Use your term and weekly calendars to help guide your daily to do list. Pay special attention to due dates.
She adds that students shouldn’t forget to take care of themselves in their “normal” routines.
“Don’t forget to take care of you,” she says. “You can’t learn effectively or be at your tip-top shape academically if you aren’t taking time for yourself. In addition to the routine you have created with yourself to focus on coursework, be sure to schedule time to take breaks and do things you enjoy. Go outside and enjoy some fresh air. Go for a walk. Start a new book. Spend time with your family. Life is completely different now and you do have a new routine, but sticking to your new routine can aid in your academic success and prevent the feeling of burn out and being overwhelmed.”
To stay on task, Rosen recommends students connect with an “accountability buddy” in their class.
“Set time aside each week for a phone call or video chat to see if you’ve met the goals you’ve set aside each week and what your plan is moving forward for the following week,” she says. “This not only holds you and your classmate accountable, it also allows for additional peer-to-peer collaboration.”
Online learning tips for accountability tasks can include:
Set goals — Be sure to make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based goals. Instead of, “I’m going to get up early and study,” be more specific. Set an alarm for 7 a.m. Get situated by 7:30 a.m. Reach chapter 3 in your textbook about adolescent psychology. Take notes while you read. Jot down anything you may not understand. Check your knowledge after reading the chapter.
Reward yourself when you do reach goals — Treat yourself to something from Amazon (guilty as charged here!). Take a 30-minute nap. Watch a show on Netflix. Reward yourself with something you enjoy. This will keep you in the habitat of reaching and obtaining the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Build deadlines — Things can quickly go awry when we don’t give ourselves hard deadlines. Giving yourself a specific date and time to complete a task can keep you on track. Be sure to be realistic with your time and how long it will take to accomplish a particular task.