Online Class Tips from a CU Denver Student

March 20, 2020

If you’ve never taken an online class, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Fear no more—if you approach an online class the right way, it can be just as successful as an in-person class. You will need to make some adjustments to how you learn, and that’s where I’m here to help. I’m a 4.0 student at CU Denver and I’ve taken online courses throughout my college career (even an online science lab). All it takes is a little self-discipline and motivation. Read on for my biggest tips and tricks on how to succeed in an online class.

Prioritize Structure

The biggest difference between in-person and online classes is (obviously) the regular meeting times that structure the class. When you’re fully online, it’s up to you to create that structure, which is easier said than done but still very possible.

Follow the same class times as when this class was in person, even if your professor gives you a whole week to do an assignment. If you’ve always been online for a course, set aside time to dedicate to the class. Some of my other tips will help with this but before moving forward, everything you do needs to be focused on creating a sense of structure for yourself.

I cannot stress this point enough.

To-Do Lists Are Your New Best Friend

Dust off all of those planners you got for your New Year’s resolution, find an old notebook, or order yourself a new planner. I’ve tried using my phone’s notes and calendar apps to track assignments, but I’ve had the best success with a physical planner. Separating online school from your physical lists helps.

I recommend logging into your Canvas account and writing every assignment and its due date in your planner. I like to organize an entire monthly calendar and break it down week by week. Being able to visually track what’s due will give your studies way more structure.

I also make myself a daily to-do list each morning including every task that I need to get done that day for each class. Break down assignments into small pieces so you can see your progress and keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Even if it’s just “read five pages of that textbook,” or “get started on that research paper,” having tasks to check off every day will motivate you and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Reach Out to your Professors

Professors know that many students are now taking online classes for the first time. Some professors are teaching remotely for the first time, too. They want you to succeed and they understand that this time is difficult for many students. They are here to help you. Think of emailing your professor as something similar to stopping into their office hours.

Have a Dedicated Study Space

Do you have that one spot in each class that’s your unofficial assigned spot, and when you don’t sit there the whole class feels off? Think of your at-home study zone in a similar way. It’s your new classroom and it needs to be a space dedicated only to your studies.

Writing your notes by hand will also help you learn the material faster and more thoroughly, so make sure your study space has a flat writing surface. Try to sit at a desk, kitchen table, or anywhere else you can productively take notes on paper while studying off of your computer.

Put your Phone Away

With more time at home I find myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram more than usual. Having set study times will help you take a social media break, but being productive during that time hinges on how focused you are. The fewer distractions you have, the more you will accomplish in your study session. I put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb,’ set a timer, and only pick up my phone when my study time is over.

Tell Yourself That You Can do It

I know it sounds hokey, but trust me here. If you get into the mental grooves of telling yourself that you’re going to fail and this online class is just the worst, you aren’t going to have any motivation to do the work. Once your motivation is gone, it’s an uphill battle to get it back. Be proactive, prepared, and positive from day one. Keep that forward momentum, and who knows, maybe you’ll learn that you enjoy online classes more than you originally thought.