Hi, everyone! Tonight I am sharing some guidance on taking online classes in college. This summer, I took my first online classes and it was an enjoyable, but stressful experience. Luckily, my university is amazing in that they offer a ton of online classes during both the school year and in summer, so there are many options to choose from. Since I was in NYC this summer, having the option to get through a few requirements for graduation online was perfect.

I took two online classes this summer – the history of Roman Gladiators and a political science class. Both were interesting in their own way; Roman Gladiators is a super exciting (and often scary) subject to learn about and I learned a lot of fun facts in that class (like that female gladiators were totally a thing). My political science class is almost finishing – I just have to finish my final essay and then I will be all done!

Benefits of online classes

The most obvious benefit is the convenience/flexibility of being online. With online classes, you are literally on your own time schedule and you can work on them wherever there is internet access (which, these days, is basically everywhere- except the Starbucks two blocks from here- I hate you Starbucks two blocks from here). Of course, this presents some challenges as well (see below!), but really having that ability to work at your own time, your own pace, and in your own location (note: on your bed, in your pajamas, curled up in a blanket) really makes online classes a super desirable alternative to the old sitting in a large lecture room setup.

Another benefit of online classes that I’ve discovered this summer is that it can provide a more interactive, engaging experience. One thing I really liked about my political science class was that we had online discussion groups where we talked about class material together and worked through any confusions as a group. This made the class feel a little more personable, because you had those interactions with other students and with the professor. My professor for poli sci also had podcasts each week that we could listen to and help us work through our readings, which really helped make the oftentimes confusing political theory jumble at least somewhat understandable.

Lastly, online classes (when you actually take the time to accomplish them) can really help you with time-management skills and figuring out how to study effectively and work smarter. Although there were deadlines for both of my classes that were set in stone, when I worked on each assignment before the due date was really up to me. Because of this, I had to create a schedule of when I was going to work on things and when I was going to study, and I had to do all of this while working around my internship (which occupied most of my time during the week) and my social outings in NYC. It was a struggle for a while to balance everything, but I am really glad that I took these classes because I genuinely believe I have gotten better at time management because of it.

Struggles of online classes

I’m not going to lie to you: taking online classes can be a struggle. In fact, some of the very positive things about this online format can also be a problem if you don’t take the necessary steps to succeed in your online class. The main struggle of this format is that because of the flexibility, it can be very easy to procrastinate or tell yourself that you will work on your homework later. It’s very tempting to forget about assignments or quizzes because you don’t have the constant reminder of in-person class interactions with the professor and other students.

Another struggle when taking an online class is that you have less resources and help when you are struggling. Although both my professors made an effort to be available for questions via email, this is a lot less meaningful than being able to sit down with a professor in office hours and discuss questions that you have, especially if you have more than one. It’s a challenge to fully explain yourself through email and to get all the necessary information you want this way.

Aside from professor interactions, you also don’t really have that connection with other students in the class or the ability to create study groups and work on understanding the material together. Like I said, my political science class attempted to do this through online discussions, and while that was certainly helpful, it simply wasn’t as ideal as in-person interactions. My Roman Gladiator class didn’t have any interactions in this way; I didn’t know a single name of any other student taking the class, and I barely had any interactions with my professor either.

How to succeed in an online class

So clearly there are both positives and negatives to taking online classes. That being said, how did I (and most importantly, how do you) succeed in online classes? Here is what I did:

  • Create a schedule of when you will be working on the class
  • Use a planner for your schedule + write down all of the deadlines you must stick to
  • Read through the material carefully + take notes on anything you don’t understand
  • Use any resources offered through the class – videos, discussions, podcasts, etc.
  • Google anything you need more help understanding – there will likely be videos or tutorials out there on the subject you are studying!
  • Don’t procrastinate – stay focused on the task at hand!
  • Be prepared to devote more time needed to learn the material – it’s easier to understand things in live lectures, so you need more time with online classes to make sure you get everything
  • Seek advice/guidance from your professor if needed
  • Take notes by hand if possible – you remember things better in writing than through a computer screen
  • Start studying early – and do enough of it that you understand everything

Those are all my tips on how to succeed in an online class in college! I hope this was helpful! Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @CaseyDonart, I would love to hear from you!

xoxo Casey

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