8 Tactics To Succeeding In Online Courses: A Guide For Students

Over 55 million students have been affected by widespread school closures in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic. In response, many schools have asked their students to complete their programs online. While transitioning to online courses can be a big adjustment, there are a few tactics you can utilize to maximize your success while completing courses at home.

1. Resist The Urge To Multitask

While it may be tempting to cook dinner, fold clothes, or complete any other task while you listen to your instructor, it’s best to stay completely focused and engaged with the lecture. Even small forms of multitasking can cause enough distraction for you to miss vital information. Give the session your undivided attention to make sure you take in the material fully.

2. Take Notes

Whether you type them up on your computer or write them by hand, taking notes helps you retain information from the lecture. Even if you don’t reference your notes again later, writing down important points of the lecture gives your brain another way to process the information instead of just visually and audibly.

When writing down important points from the lecture, include a time-stamp of when your instructor referenced that specific point. If your instructor posts a recording after class, knowing exactly when they covered the relevant point lets you go back and rewatch that part of the session instead of spending time navigating through a long video.

3. Find A Quiet Place Where You Aren’t Distracted

When choosing where in your home you’ll be logging on from, stay away from locations that are overly comfortable, like your bed or the couch. If possible, sit at a desk or a table where your body isn’t tempted to relax and shut down, and so that you can easily take notes and type on your computer. Try to consistently attend courses in the same place each day to send a message to your mind that when you’re in that spot, you’re learning. 

Let the people you’re living with know when your classes are and where in the house you’ll be logging on from. That way, you can ask them to support you and your studies by being quiet and not interacting with you unless it’s urgent so that you can concentrate. Whether it’s your roommates or family members, the people you live with might interrupt or distract you if they aren’t aware you’re actively attending your course.

4. Get Dressed For Class

While it’s tempting to spend the whole day in pajamas, that approach isn’t ideal for successful learning. Getting dressed as if you were actually going to campus not only helps you flip that mental switch when it’s time for class, it also gives you some semblance of a routine each day. Having a routine, even if it’s as basic as getting dressed before class, can aid your mental health by helping you cope with change and form healthy habits, and can boost your productivity by anchoring your day and keeping you focused.

5. Make Use Of The Resources Offered By Your School

You might feel like taking courses online makes your school’s resources more distant or harder to access. But online programs typically offer many resources to help you progress through your program, especially in times like the coronavirus pandemic. Whether it’s guidance counseling, virtual office hours, academic advising, student services, or other study resources, take advantage of the resources available to you.

6. Actively Participate

Frequent participation with your lecture can help you stay engaged and retain more of the course material. Especially if your instructor is giving you opportunities to submit questions or answer polls through engagement tools. Your participation will enrich the session and may even help your classmates learn if they have similar questions to yours.

7. Be Intentionally Active and Healthy

With in-person courses, you’re naturally required to move around on foot. You walk from class to class, meet and socialize with classmates, grab a snack from the vending machine, and more. With online courses, however, there are fewer instances that require movement. It’s easy to stay seated after class and surf the web or check social media, which means you must be intentional with your exercise while at home. Put some time aside to hit a few pushups, follow a yoga session online, or walk around the block if possible. Staying active releases endorphins that will make you feel more energized, more alert, and happier in general.

Fueling your body properly will also increase your learning capacity. Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day because it can be easy to forget when you aren’t as active as usual. But it’s still very important because staying hydrated will make you feel less drowsy.

Try not to eat a big meal before your class session. Filling up on food and then staying still for a while can put you in a food coma. We’ve all been there before and know how hard it is to concentrate. If you get hungry, try eating small portions of food more frequently throughout the day to give your brain energy without falling into a food coma.

8. The Pomodoro Technique

When you’re not in class but still have reading or assignments to complete, try using the Pomodoro Technique for heightened productivity. The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Peter Cirillo in the 1980s and typically structures work into 25 minutes of focus and 5 minutes of break.

When studying or completing an assignment, try breaking your work into 25 minutes of dedicated focus on the task with a 5 minute break as a reward. Use that 5 minutes to do whatever you want, but make sure to come back for your next 25 without giving yourself “just a few more minutes.”

Conquering Courses Online

Completing courses online is very different to attending traditional in-person classes. It takes a heightened level of focus, discipline, and time management to successfully complete your courses. As you embark through your online course journey, keep the points above in mind to maximize your chance of success.

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