Back to college prep: study tips for online courses

EGetting a college degree is no small feat. But adding online courses to the equation makes higher education even harder, especially for those used to in-person learning.

As summer draws to a close, students may be wondering how to ace online classes this semester. If you’re one of the students logging on to Zoom instead of returning to class in the fall, keep reading our top online course success tips.

Top tips for taking college courses online

Plan your class schedule and homework

College students have a lot to do. Additionally, completing classes, assignments, and study groups online can make days blur and deadlines slip by undetected.

Fight scheduling errors by making good use of your calendar. Write down your class times, key deadlines, and other activities to organize your daily tasks. The color coding of each calendar block is also helpful.

And don’t forget to plan time to rest. If you have back-to-back classes, take about an hour before your next study session to decompress.

Familiarize yourself with your technology

At the very least, you will need access to a computer and a stable internet connection to successfully complete online courses. Familiarize yourself with your computer and save yourself stress by learning what to do if your internet connection goes down during class. It’s also a good idea to have a backup power source in case of an unexpected power outage.

Most live online classes are delivered over Zoom. Your instructors can also post assignments to virtual communication boards like Canvas. Browse these platforms before the school year to make sure you are comfortable using them. Canvas is known to be confusing for many students. Watch this handy video tutorial before classes start.

Create designated online and offline hours

College students spend an average of three to four hours a day online. Spending time online is unavoidable while taking virtual classes, but taking regular breaks from the internet can help reduce stress and keep your mind sharp.

Take a look at your calendar. Are most of your classes scheduled in the morning? Are they held in the afternoon? Block designated times to be online, as well as disconnect times.

Take into account that you will need time online to study, but try to limit unnecessary screen time. Having constant access to the Internet can contribute to information overload and anxiety, two issues that students face enough of.

Do a routine

What do most successful people have in common? They create a daily routine and they stick to it. Many of the best entrepreneurs in the world have an intentional morning routine that sets them up for success throughout the day. College students can do the same to maximize productivity levels.

It is recommended to take advantage of the morning. Even if you’re not an early riser, plan to get up at least an hour before you start getting ready for class. The extra time will create space for your morning routine, whether it’s meditation, exercise, or brewing a strong cup of coffee.

If you’re more of a night owl, consider creating a mindful bedtime routine that allows you to start the next day with a new mindset.

Sign up for student discounts

Most universities offer generous student discounts for a variety of products and services. Technology providers like Apple and Microsoft offer discounts to distance learners. Your local ISP may also do this. Check with your local transportation services, restaurants, utilities, and grocery stores for discounts while you’re there. You’ll be surprised how much money you can save by handing in your student ID.

Create a study area

One of the most valuable study tips for students is to create a designated study area. Our brain develops associations for each space we find ourselves in, which helps us subconsciously assign purpose to those spaces. This means cutting out a study area will help your brain easily switch into “study mode”, improving focus and productivity.

Another great study tip for college? Make sure your space is comfortable and distraction-free. If you live in a dorm or with roommates, you might consider investing in noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to keep ambient noise from distracting you.

Consider setting boundaries for social media

Nobody wants to hear it, but time spent liking online memes could be time spent studying instead. If you’re easily distracted by social media, consider setting time limits to keep you from scrolling endlessly.

Social media has addictive properties that can drive users into compulsive overconsumption, encroaching on their productive hours and potentially disrupting their sleep patterns.

Most smartphones have a feature that locks users out of their social media apps once they reach a designated time limit. You can also try downloading third-party apps, like Offtime and Freedom, that temporarily block access to social media and other sites where you make settings.

Priority to health and well-being

College is tough on both body and mind. Be sure to take care of yourself by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating nutritious meals. Also, don’t forget to take regular breaks from your computer.

Stretching your shoulders, arms, and neck can help ease the pain associated with sitting in front of your laptop all day.

Prioritizing wellness not only boosts productivity levels, but can also give your mental health a serious boost. You will feel better prepared to tackle your online and extracurricular courses.

Research available online resources in advance

Universities generally offer an abundance of online resources for their students. However, chances are you won’t have the time or energy to look for them once school starts.

It’s best to know where to go before the semester starts. Whether you’re looking for counselling, tutoring, or financial assistance, know where to look once classes begin. You will thank yourself for having these resources at your fingertips once you are studying and reviewing.

Connect with your classmates

It’s no surprise that online courses can feel isolating. A 2020 study by United States Military Academy West Point found that many students feel disconnected from their peers and instructors in online classes. With little to no in-person interaction and constant Zoom meetings, it’s easy to see why.

Take the time to reach out to your classmates and bond around common interests. You might also consider joining clubs or study groups, virtual or in-person, that bring you closer to your peers. The connections made at college can even help you serve your professional life down the line.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online College

How long do the online courses last?

Most online courses last as long as their in-person counterparts. A one-hour on-campus English class, for example, would also take an hour online. However, if you are taking an asynchronous course, you can take the course at your own pace.

How much time should I dedicate to my online course per week?

Plan to devote at least three hours per credit each week to online courses. Courses are usually three or four credits each. So if you’re taking three online courses and each is worth three credits, you’ll want to spend at least nine hours a week on your coursework.

What are the benefits of online courses?

For starters, online courses are generally flexible. Students can theoretically join their classes from anywhere with a stable internet connection. This flexibility provides students with greater autonomy and can make it easier to balance other personal commitments.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Karen O. Fielding