5 Ways to Sail Smoothly Into Online School

May 5, 2020 Updated: May 5, 2020

Like many students across the world, you’ve most likely been making the shift from in-person to online classes. This transition may be a little daunting, especially if you’ve never taken an online class before. As someone who switched to virtual learning almost three years ago, I remember that feeling. Over time, I developed the following five strategies to become successful.

Make Yourself Comfortable

While there are some disadvantages to online learning, the fact that you get to set up your study space is a plus. If it helps you concentrate, turn on some music. Do school work from the comfort of your favorite chair or from your bed! Make some snacks, whatever you need to feel relaxed and ready to work. 

Limit Distractions

One of the biggest struggles of doing school from home is that it requires a lot of self-motivation. Instead of going to class at specific times, you can do your work wherever you want. It’s hard to make yourself do school work if you are surrounded by things and people vying for your attention. 

Make sure that your workspace is designed to limit those distractions as much as possible. Close the door to your room. Tell everyone in your house, “I’m going to work on my English class now, please don’t interrupt me.” 

More disruptive are self-created distractions. Maybe right as you turn on your computer, you notice your room is messy and you must clean it. Keeping your room tidy, turning your phone on airplane mode, turning off social media notifications, and closing your email tab are all ways to limit distractions. Also, keep school supplies within reach. Even a 30-second distraction to dig your calculator out of your backpack can be disruptive. 

Figure Out When Things Are Due and Plan Accordingly

When you’re taking five classes at once, it can be challenging to know which one to start on. The first thing you should do is create a calendar of when all of your assignments are due that week. Some distancing-learning websites, such as Canvas, have a calendar built with all your due dates, which is a good starting place. 

If your distancing learning site does not have this, you’ll need to create one from scratch. Look at the syllabus for your classes and figure out what is due when. Then look at all the assignments for the next week and carefully read the instructions. Some might have multiple parts, such as “write your answer to the discussion question by Sunday and respond to someone else’s response by Wednesday.” Both parts should be added to your calendar. Most built-in calendars will only have the final due date. The times the assignments are due should also be included. Most will probably be due by midnight, but not all. I have found that different classes nearly always have things due on different days. Therefore, assignment due dates for your different classes will be spread out across the week. While some days might have more due than other days, seeing it all laid out should give you a good idea of what to work on each day. While this may be time-consuming for the first few weeks, eventually you will get a good feel for what is due when and follow a similar pattern every week.

Don’t Cut Corners

Since it is impossible to monitor students as closely with distancing learning, it can be hard to resist the temptation to not do everything required. If I can use the internet on my phone during a test, why would I take notes? Maybe I can watch Netflix and my teacher’s lecture at the same time? Why would I read all of the supporting documents if I only have to respond to one? This may work as a short-term strategy, but probably not in the long-run. Perhaps, while you have unlimited time on the quizzes, on the test itself you will not have the time to look up every answer. Maybe your lack of knowledge will show on a written assignment. At some point, cutting corners will reflect on your grades and by then it will take more effort to catch up than it would have if you hadn’t cut corners.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Since you might not even see your professor’s face for the duration of the semester, it can be hard to remember that there is an actual person teaching you. Throughout the school year problems and confusion are bound to occur. If you misunderstand an important concept early in the year because something wasn’t worded clearly, that class can start making about as much sense as ancient Greek. 

If you’re unsure about something or aren’t certain about the exact requirements of an assignment, it’s much better to ask your teacher than have your grades suffer. Just like in an in-person class, your teacher will be happy to help and most respond in a timely manner. They can even help with issues such as turning in an assignment late or technical difficulties. If you’ve avoided cutting corners and they know you are an honest student, they’ll be willing to work with you any way they can.

Sapphire Courter is currently a business major at Butte College in California. She has been doing all of her studies online since the beginning of the school year.