Online courses give you a lot of freedom as a student, and that freedom comes with unique benefits and challenges. The content may be exactly the same as an in-person class, but you’re engaging with it in a new way — and with new tools. If you’re struggling to adapt to the current online learning environment, don’t worry. We’re here to help.
Here are some strategies we recommend for getting the most out of your online classes.
1. Find out what your learning style is.
What kind of learner are you? Finding out which styles of learning (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) resonant most with you will help you know how to use your study time wisely. Try taking this five-minute quiz to identify your primary learning styles. It will even share some helpful tips for studying based on your results!
2. Make a plan.
At the beginning of the semester, review the syllabus information for all of your classes and create a master calendar of due dates. If you like working from a paper planner, great! If not, there are dozens of calendar apps available. No matter which format you choose, make sure it’s easy to access and understand — you’ll be referencing it a lot in the coming weeks.
3. Be mindful of your space.
If you can, try to create a designated “study space.” Even if that space is your kitchen table (which is used for plenty of other things), it should be somewhere you can feel productive and focused. You should be comfortable, but try to avoid doing classwork in bed. Changing where you are physically will help you get into the right headspace so you can finish quicker and with fewer distractions.
4. Keep a regular schedule.
If you work best with lots of structure, online classes may be difficult because of their highly flexible nature. You can get around this, though, by creating your own structure! Your schedule can be as basic as a list of tasks for the week, or as detailed as setting aside specific times in your calendar to study. Either way, creating a schedule for yourself and sticking to it will help ensure you don’t miss any deadlines or end up cramming for a test at the last minute.
5. Contact your instructor.
Even though you aren’t meeting in person, your instructors are still eager to help you learn the material. Don’t hesitate to email them with questions or thoughts throughout the semester. They will be delighted to hear from you!
6. Have virtual study sessions.
Just because you can’t study together in person doesn’t mean you have to study alone! Consider reaching out to some of your classmates to see who’s interested in studying virtually as a small group. Just like in a traditional study session, you can learn a lot from your peers by discussing the material, asking questions, and quizzing each other.
7. Don’t forget to take notes!
Whenever you watch a lecture, whether it’s live or recorded, remember to take notes as if it were a traditional class. You will still use those notes to study, review the material, and prepare for exams.
8. Quiz yourself.
This tip doesn’t just apply to online classes, but it’s an important one! When you’re taking in a lot of information, a great strategy for making it “stick” is to test your recall abilities. You can even create your own flashcard decks and share them with your classmates for free using Quizlet!
The world is full of distractions, but in order to study efficiently (and get done sooner!) you’ve got to kick them out. So try to find a quiet space, turn off Netflix, and don’t use social media until you’re finished. (If you struggle not to check Instagram or Snapchat while you’re in study mode, try logging out of your account so it’s not as easy to get sucked in.) If you live with other people, consider sharing your class schedule with them in advance so they know not to bother you when you’re in the zone.
10. Break bigger projects into manageable tasks.
When you have a big assignment coming up but don’t know how to get started, it can feel paralyzing. Don’t worry! Try breaking it into smaller parts by asking yourself a series of questions like: What will the finished project look like? What do I need to learn about or do in order to get there? How should I plan to learn or do those things?
11. Teach someone else.
You’ve probably heard it said before, but one of the best ways to learn is to teach someone else. Verbally explaining a concept to another person is especially helpful in an online setting where much of your learning may be solitary. If you can find a friend or family member who’s willing to listen, try telling them about what you’re learning in class. Or, if your friends and family would rather not hear about what you’re learning, take turns “teaching” a classmate over Zoom!
12. Enjoy yourself.
You shouldn’t dread study time every day. Learning is hard work, so you should feel challenged — but not stressed. Try to find ways to make the time you spend on your online classes enjoyable, whether that means making yourself a cup of coffee, playing your favorite music in the background, or sitting outside on a pretty day.
13. Take breaks.
When your classes are online, you’re obviously going to spend a good bit of time looking at your computer screen. Try to take regular breaks, though, where you can move around, do yoga, go for a walk, exercise, meditate — whatever helps you relax and destress.
As you already know, taking a class online is different from taking a class in person. But with the right tools, a solid plan, a little discipline, and good self care, you’ll be able to thrive in a fully digital environment.