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7 Online Class Tips to Help You Make the Grade

College • March 26, 2020 • Chris Morrison


What you’ll learn

  • Learn strategies to help you excel in your online class


With the recent mass migration of university classes to online formats, many students are wondering how they can make the most of their new online class experience.

As someone who has taken online classes before, I can attest that they can be great options for students, especially those looking to accommodate busy schedules, or in these times, fulfill degree requirements when in-person options just aren’t possible.

And the number of students who have elected to take online classes have only increased over the last few years. According to Sallie Mae’s “How America Pays for College 2019” report, about two in five students took courses online in the 2018-2019 school year.

Just because you’re not physically present in class, however, doesn’t mean that it will be a walk in the park. You’ll need to have the right level of focus, apply proactive study habits, and manage your time effectively to be successful in an online class.

So, whether your university has temporarily moved to online classes or you’re considering taking some online classes in the future, here are seven online class tips to help you succeed:

  1. Bring the same level of focus.

    Just because your classroom is virtual doesn’t mean you should treat the class any differently from an in-person one. Instead, bring the same level of focus and determination.

    Continue to maintain a strong work ethic, be proactive with schoolwork, complete and upload all assignments on time, and study hard for exams – just as you would if you were attending an in-person class on-campus. In the end, your online classes will be weighted the same as any other traditional in-person class you take in college. Therefore, continue to apply the same level of focus, determination, and quality work ethic to succeed.

  2. Learn your online classroom.

    When it comes to online classes, your ability to navigate and utilize the tools of your online classroom site is key. As this will be the site where you will access all course materials, watch virtual lectures, participate in class forums, submit assignments, and take exams – it’s important that you know how to access it and where things are located. And the sooner you do, the better off you’ll be.

    Depending on your school or professor, your online class can fall under two categories: synchronous or asynchronous learning.

    Synchronous learning is online or distance education that occurs in real time. In other words, your online classroom operates similarly to an in-person class – just that its online. Synchronous learning in online classes typically involves live-streaming online lectures, live chatrooms for in-the-moment class participation, and set online class times for students to virtually attend. Online classes that follow a synchronous learning structure can provide students with enhanced classroom engagement opportunities and more dynamic learning experiences.

    Asynchronous learning is online or distance education that is not in real time and occurs when you schedule time to work on the class. While your professor will provide online lectures, assignments, and exams for you to complete, you can do so on your own time – as long as you meet the specified deadlines for each. In general, online classes that follow an asynchronous learning structure can provide students with greater flexibility to complete the class and a more affordable alternative.

    Leading up to the first day, read through your course materials and spend time perusing the virtual classroom site to familiarize yourself with where things are located. Specifically, pay special attention to where you can access online course materials, submit assignments, and take online exams.

    Then experiment with the different technological tools of your online classroom. Learn how to access digital lectures, open chatrooms and send messages to your fellow students, and submit questions to your professor during class.

    With technology constantly evolving, the capabilities of your online classroom will only continue to advance and better help you succeed. Therefore, don’t just know it - master it!

  3. Set-up a regular study space.

    When taking an online class, set-up a designated learning environment where you can go to focus on your schoolwork. Doing so can not only help you be more productive by eliminating distractions, but it can also help you stay organized and establish a healthy online learning routine.

    As you go about looking for a location to study, find a space that allows you to focus. For those who can get easily distracted, try to stay away from public spaces where unexpected interruptions can occur or in a room with tempting distractions, such as televisions or dogs.

    Also make sure that your chosen study space can support the technological requirements of your online class. At a minimum, that should include access to high-speed Internet, power outlets, and headphones to listen to your virtual lectures.

    Then, once you have your designated study space, keep it organized.

  4. Eliminate distractions.

    One of the greatest challenges with online classes is how easy it can be to get distracted. After all, you’re not in a physical class, right? As we discussed in the previous tip, creating a designated learning environment is a great way to eliminate distractions. However, not all distractions are physical ones…

    We all know that the Internet can be a distracting place. In just a matter of seconds, you could be scrolling through your social media feed, streaming a favorite television show, playing an online game, or watching a crazy cat video. And before you know it, thirty minutes has just flown by and you’re wondering how you got to watching what you’re watching! That makes it even more important that you’re proactive in preventing online distractions as you take your online class.

    So, if you’re someone who gets easily distracted online, there are number of quick steps you can take to eliminate online distractions while in your virtual classroom. First, silence your smartphone, turn off all computer notifications, and close any irrelevant web browsers. Second, disconnect from your social media accounts to reduce the temptation of checking every few minutes. And finally, try out a free web browser extension, such as BlockSite, that allows you to temporarily block distracting websites (e.g. social media, video streaming, online gaming, etc.).

  5. Actively participate in class.

    Active participation in an online class is one of the best ways to enhance your online learning experience. Not only can it help you better understand the course material, but it also gives you the chance to engage with your classmates and professors. Contribute to group discussions in the online class forum, submit questions for further discussion in virtual lectures, and answer questions posed by your professor.

  6. Manage your time effectively.

    Time management is everything when you’re in an online class. Yes, online classes can provide more flexibility. However, that also means that you’re responsible for making sure that you attend all online lectures, complete all assignments, and take all online exams within the specified timeframes. Therefore, make sure you are managing your time effectively.

    Perform a time audit by keeping a record of your weekly schedule to see how you can improve your time management skills. Set a daily study schedule to watch virtual lectures, complete assignments, and study for upcoming exams – complete with periodic study breaks. Keep a to-do list of all the assignments and tasks you need to complete for your online class. Plan by adding important assignment deadlines and exam dates to your calendar and then taking proactive steps to make sure you’re preparing in advance.

  7. Connect with your classmates.

    Just because you’re not in a physical classroom doesn’t mean you can’t chat with the other students in your class. Connecting with your online classmates isn’t just a smart strategy to help you do well in your online class, but it can also lead to new friendships.

    In addition to using chatrooms available through your online classroom, utilize popular video chat applications and social media websites to connect with your fellow students. Ask each other questions when you don’t understand a concept discussed in the lecture, form virtual study groups to review the course material and prepare for upcoming exams, and collaborate on group projects.

With the right amount of focus, determination, time management, and active participation in class, you can make the most of your online class experience and make the grade!


Chris graduated from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business marketing. An analyst for Sallie Mae, Chris is interested in all things college, personal finance, and the Washington Nationals.


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