Since starting college, I’ve taken over a dozen online courses and, in light of the pandemic and schools being mostly online now, I wanted to impart the knowledge I’ve gained to current college students. Taking online courses can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding.
For my last two years at university, I took four online courses and only one course on campus. My concentration was in professional writing and most of the courses were taught online. I had taken a year off after graduating community college, but finally decided to fulfill my dream of graduating with an English degree. Still, I feared I wouldn’t have enough focus, especially with five courses and a part-time job to balance.
I knew I needed a system for managing my course load, but none of the systems I created in the past worked. I would still miss assignments I forgot to do and kept spending too much time on one course and too little on another. When I reached university, I finally figured out what worked for me.
This system may not work for everyone, but I hope you can apply at least one of the steps to help you in your online course journey.
Step 1: Create a to do list for all classes for the week
- Write all assignments with their due dates written beside them.
- Include any reading/note-taking you will need to do
- Mark a star beside all assignments that will be due by the end of the weak and highlight all due dates for remembrance.
Step 2: At the end of each day, create a to do list of assignments for the following day. Use your weekly to do list as a guide to keep up with due dates.
- Place any reading assignments and note-taking for Monday and/or Tuesday to begin learning the lesson for the week.
- Try to work on assignments with the nearest due dates so you won’t scramble to turn them in at the last minute.
Step 3: At the end of the day, cross out or place a check beside each assignment you’ve finished.
- Any assignment you didn’t get to, write on the next day’s list.
Step 4: If you have an essay or project due during the week make sure to plan ahead.
- Start research early
- Work on the assignment a little each day, if you can, before the due date arrives.
Step 5: Give yourself breaks between homework sessions to relax, especially if you feel you’re getting frustrated.
- Try not to make the break more than an hour (30 minutes if you have other obligations that day) so you won’t begin to procrastinate.
Step 6: If you’re able to, save quizzes for the end of the week, after you’ve learned the week’s lesson and properly studied.
Step 7: Frequently check your online courses for changes.
- Do this especially to keep up with due dates so you don’t forget assignments or fall behind.
- This also helps you keep up with any changes your teachers may make during the week, such as posting new deadlines or postponing an assignment.
Step 8: If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or fear that you’re falling behind…
- Email or speak with your instructor through Zoom or another telecommunication platform like Skype, if you can’t meet with them on campus. Together you can discuss how best to get you back on track.
Other Useful Tips
- Sometimes working online can get a little lonely. Even as an introvert I sometimes missed the classroom set up, being able to hear classmates’ interesting questions and answers. If you feel yourself getting lonely, see if you can chat with your classmates. One of my professors had us set up a chat date every so often so we could ask any questions and check on our progress. You could also possibly set up a study date with other classmates via Zoom or Skype. This may help you feel less alone, especially when working on projects with a team.
- Moving from on campus courses to partially or completely online will be a new step. Make sure to take it one step at a time and don’t be afraid to ask your professors for help if you feel overwhelmed at any time. Even speaking to fellow classmates can help. You can bounce ideas off each other to help with balancing all your courses and working on tough assignments.
- When I was at university, I had a part-time job as a clerical student worker. It could sometimes be difficult balancing a job with five courses, but I was able to do a lot of my homework while at work and I had Fridays off to study. Since it was a student position it worked around the one class I had on campus. If you’re working while attending university, even if it’s remote work, make sure to add that into your system. If you work the same times each day, block these times off for just work and have a little break between work and then coursework or vice versa.
I graduated two years ago, and I don’t know how it must feel to attend college in the middle of a pandemic, but both my sister and my friend dealt with their classes being shifted from on campus to completely online for their last semester. If you’re planning on attending college this year, just remember that you’re not alone. Everyone is still adjusting to everything and it’s best to take things slow, if you can.
Make sure to get help if you’re falling behind and, if you feel you need it, you can always seek therapy. I worked with my therapist during my years at university and it was very helpful. Even in the midst of this health crisis, it helps to talk to someone about any fears and anxiety you may be feeling and work to fight against them.
Keeping a balance and being consistent is key. I believe having a system for managing your courses and work will be a tremendous help.