What You Need To Know...Taking Online Classes

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sometimes summer adventure is calling and you don't want to be tied down to a schedule. Sometimes winters are harsh and sparing a few hours out in the cold is highly appealing. Whatever the reasoning, online classes have made their way into the daily college student life.

I know I said I would quit with the whole constantly being busy thing, but it turns out I just can't. Life at 60MPH is how I work best, sue me. So I signed myself up (on the last day, of course) for online classes through my university. The benefit? Getting some necessary credits out of the way and keeping my brain active. The downside? A couple less hours out in the sun.

It just makes sense.

But it's not so easy to split your time between getting work done for the classes, social life, errands and still having time for yourself. I've pulled together a few important pieces of advice over the past two years of taking the occasional online class so the next time you hit the "register" button, you won't have a moment of panic on how to tackle the course.

  1. Pencil in the syllabus. It sounds funny, but making notes in your planner with due dates or personal deadlines for projects, discussion posts and other homework is really important. If it's not written, you'll likely forget it and when you're busy soaking up the sun or curling up with Netflix, you might overlook an important deadline that will end up destroying your grade. 
  2. Give yourself a break. Staring at a screen for hours can make you go insane. Give yourself breaks along the way. Spend an hour plugging away at an assignment, then an hour outside, running an errand or cleaning. It seems like a no-brainer, but it's very easy to get sucked into the online world. If there are books for the class, I try to get them in paperback instead of on my Nook/Kindle/computer so my eyes aren't being terribly worn out.
  3. Keep a normal schedule. It's a beautiful thing to have a deadline at the end of the week as the only set time for the class, but beware of waiting until the last minute. If you keep yourself on a schedule that mimics a normal class (a couple hours every day or every other day), it will help you get the most out of the course without missing other activities. 
  4. Make friends (or at least be friendly). A lot of people think that online classes don't require interaction with other students. On the contrary, they actually make it mandatory for you to post and reply in discussion groups or just on each others' work, which in some cases is more interactive than the 400+ student, in-person lecture. You're also all in this together, so it's a good way to make friends, exchange e-mails and add each other on LinkedIn. You can broaden your network and meet people of different places/backgrounds/ages - you never know who you'll meet that might be an awesome resource later on!
  5. Don't be shy. Ask questions, post replies, e-mail fellow classmates, e-mail the professor; this is still like any other class and you want to get your money's worth out of these credits. If you're unclear on something, ask. Professors of online courses are usually even more willing to go above and beyond to explain something, and they respond really quickly. 
  6. Make sure you're interested. Be wary of choosing a class that isn't very interesting to you, because it will make it that much tougher to do the work. Try your best to choose classes that pertain to your major or electives that align with your interests. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a bunch of work that you don't want to do when you're all on your own to do it!

Have you taken online classes? What piece of advice would you give from your experience?


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