Online Classes

How To take An Online Class

One of the most common lines I get from student emails is: “This is my first online class.”

Such a line is usually accompanied by an apology for an error or a misunderstanding.

I actually don’t mind these emails.

To me, it shows that the student is making some sort of effort either to correct something or to get in touch with me or something along those lines. It also shows the commonalities of students trying to figure out an online class. For many students, they are trying to figure out college life in general on top of this strange, new learning format.

I’ve noticed the top student confusions and I have come up with some tips to help with online learning.

1. Familiarize yourself with the platform

There are many different platforms for online learning: Blackboard, Rcampus, Learnopia, Udemy, Cengage, and Moodle to name a few. Different universities use different platforms to carry their online courses. Each has a different way of organizing the content of the course and some are more intuitive than others. On top of that, different professors will organize their courses differently.

So it really is a good idea to take 15 min- 1/2 hour and just LOOK at the course you are taking. Where is the grading located? Where are your assignments? Tests? How do you contact your instructor? Where is the syllabus?

2. Know the syllabus

Actually, this goes for any course but sometimes professors will put instructions on their syllabus regarding how to access certain things online and where such things are.

Seriously. Check the syllabus.

3. Set aside time each day (or certain days) for the class

This is also a good general tip for any course but it is very easy to forget that you don’t have a course, or homework, or a test when you don’t physically go to class on a regular basis. Setting aside a regular time during the week will alleviate this.

Believe it or not, it is fairly easy to guess which students do this and which ones do not. The grades reflect this also with the students setting aside regular time for the class almost always getting higher grades.

4. Email the professor

Personally, I would rather have too many emails from students than not enough.

If you, the student, are having difficulty with a class, it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions. There SHOULD be someone on the other end of that online class.

5. Make sure your internet connection, hardware, software, etc are good to go

Sometimes students have difficulties with the class that is not their fault… or even the instructor’s fault. I know that iPads don’t always load Blackboard or that weak internet connections don’t always load chapter tests. These are just two examples.

Should something go wrong, I really, really recommend that you take a screen shot of the problem, if possible. Email that screen shot to your instructor with a nicely worded email (tip #4) of what happened and/or what the problem is. The screen shot serves as both proof for you and possible identification of a problem for the instructor.

6. Don’t wait until the last minute

This is a good life rule, me thinks. For online classes especially, however, this is very important.

If your internet, computer, software, or whatever decides to crash an hour or so before something is due, I can promise that the professor will not have much sympathy for you, especially if you have had a long time to do the assignment.

7. Back up your assignments

Just in case the apocalypse happens…

8. Take notes, do the reading… as if this were a REAL class

Actually, an online class IS a REAL class. I think that sometimes students don’t take online classes as seriously as their in-person classes.

But taking notes, doing the readings, and just generally treating the class as a class will really help. Trust me.

9. Take the class in a good “learning space” 

Noisy environment vs library vs semi-distraction vs no-distraction location vs study buddy vs solo study. You decide which is better for your learning.

I actually don’t mean that sarcastically. Everyone learns differently.

10.  You get what you give

Classes online are often very cut and dry with no room for professors to bump up points if you “tried hard” or if you “came to class every day” and participated in discussion or whatever.

That is not to say that it is impossible but often the grade is very simply derived: did you do everything required? Is the answer right or wrong? You get the idea.

Good luck!


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