How to Get the Most Out of College If You’re Attending Virtually

Once considered a novelty, virtual learning has now established its position as a reliable alternative to traditional, in-person education. While attending college virtually is not what many students consider “going to college,” attending classes online can actually be a viable option for many. This is not to say online learning comes without its challenges. Here are eight tips to address the most common issues students face with online classes.

  1. Preempt Technical Issues. Computers can shut down during a virtual meeting, and most everyone has experienced a spotty Wi-Fi connection. The best solution is to take screenshots of the issue, communicate with professors, and inform them about the problem. Hopefully, they will understand and be flexible about the situation. A school’s technical support services department can be a valuable resource. Students who experience problems with their computer, whether it stops working or has connection issues, shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to the computer support team of their college to see what help they provide for students. If your college offers a session with the computer support team during new student orientation, you should attend it. At many colleges, the computer support team also provides training in different programs, including Excel and PowerPoint. Alternatively, students can save themselves time by looking up answers to their technology questions online or watching a video tutorial.

  2. Stay Organized and Focused. Setting up a regular workspace or office can help students stay organized. Knowing exactly where you keep important dates, files, notes, forms, books, and assignments will definitely help you stay on track. When setting up your study space, make sure you have a strong internet connection; the required books, materials, and software for the course; and headphones for listening to discussions and lectures (especially important in shared spaces). Establishing a dedicated workspace can also help eliminate distractions. By completing work repeatedly in the same spot, students will establish a routine. Having a dedicated study space also makes it easier to stay focused on the material during online study groups. Also, consider turning your cell phone off or putting it in another room to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up.

  3. Master Time Management. When it comes to online classes, students need to have the discipline to sit down, set goals, and work on their assignments until they’re done. Online classes offer more flexibility for completing work, but work can’t be put it off indefinitely. Without solid time management skills, students may easily find themselves cramming before classes or handing in subpar assignments. Ultimately, how students manage their time will depend on their schedule, learning style, and personality. All students can benefit from keeping a calendar with assignment due dates and checking it daily, creating a work schedule with designated times for coursework, and reflecting on how they are using their time and making necessary adjustments.


  1. Stay Motivated. Not attending class at a set time on a physical campus may make completing coursework more difficult. To stay motivated, always keep in mind that online courses are “real” courses being paid for just like a traditional, face-to-face, in-person class. Students must show up and participate. Set goals at the beginning of the term and at the beginning of each week. Make a list of what you need to accomplish and check off all completed items at the end of the day; this can be a great motivator. For students having trouble maintaining their academic momentum, another idea is to pair up with a classmate or enlist the help of a friend to act as an accountability partner.


  1. Understand Course Expectations. Navigating the online classroom can be a challenge. Students may wonder whether their classes have live lectures through videoconferencing at a set time on a certain day, or whether they are expected to learn the material on their own time. If there are any questions, students must be proactive in asking their professors anything from course expectations to requirements. Online learners who know the expectations can set goals, meet them, and pass the course.


  1. Actively participate. Engage in the course’s online forum or discussion board. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper or posting a question about an ongoing project. By checking in often and reading what other students and the professor are posting, you can get a better understanding of course material and engage with classmates. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare, a discussion response can be squeezed in. Set a goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day. And be proactive in asking the professor for help. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report problems.


  1. Interact with instructors and classmates. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with students supporting each other and working together to discuss lessons and complete assignments. Build relationships with your professor and other students by introducing yourself and participating in online discussion boards. Knowing classmates can be extremely helpful when preparing for exams, seeking feedback on assignments, or staying motivated. Consider putting together a virtual study group. This idea may be greatly appreciated all around. Attend virtual office hours to speak with professors directly. Students should take advantage of available tools. Alternatives to actual face-to-face interaction may be videoconferencing programs like Zoom or FaceTime. Talking on the phone with classmates or a professor is also an option. Messaging platforms like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Slack can also help with group communication.


  1. Take advantage of college resources. Colleges offer numerous resources designed to make life easier for students. In addition to computer help, colleges offer online libraries, financial aid advisors, academic advisors, tutors, and a career center.


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