I recently chose to take on a few online classes. “Piece of cake,” I thought. What could be easier than a college course that I don’t even have to wear pants for? Nothing. Nothing at all.
I thought this until I decided to tell my girlfriend, who herself had recently gotten through a few online courses. Admittedly, throughout that semester, she had seemed a bit more stressed than usual. Personally, I just thought it was a difficult semester all around – we all get those every now and then. Of course, this wasn’t the case.
“You do know that you’ll have more responsibility with these classes, right?” she asked, and then she proceeded to explain just how hard online classes can be.
It’s not the content, the professors, or the assignments by any means. Actually, it’s the format. With online courses, everything relies on you. There’s no schedule to follow, no classes to sit through, no professors to face in person… Nothing like that.
That’s why we’ve put together five skills you should learn when taking on such a course for yourself.
Tame The Technology
If you’re like me, you may have some weird time-wasting habits whenever you sit down in front of the computer. What’s mine? I open Chrome, press Command+T to open a new tab aside from my home page, type in “R” which immediately sets the address bar up for Reddit, and boom, I’m looking at the Front Page of the Internet. It all happens very quickly, and no, I don’t even think about it as it happens anymore. Blah.
Laptops, phones, and tablets are all full of “automatic distractions” like these. We have conditioned ourselves to instantly be distracted as soon as we set ourselves down in front of them. As a student, you should view these devices for what they are: tools for the enhancement of your education.
Before you set down to work, study, or discuss using your online classroom, get rid of these distractions as well as you can. One tool that MakeUseOf recommends is Productivity Owl, a Chrome extension that gives you only so many seconds to browse certain websites before it closes the tab. Since you’re already working within your Internet browser for classes, this is an awesome solution, and there’s even the option to blacklist or whitelist certain sites during certain portions of the day.
As for smartphones and tablets, I recommend something a bit more practical: get rid of ’em. Put your other devices away somewhere – a different room even. You do not need them to conduct your studies, and in fact, I bet that you will finish your studies up faster without them.
Set A Timekeeping Goal
What I say here may seem ridiculous, but personally, I’ve found it to be rather effective. I used to be a full-time procrastinator, one who would spend hours waiting to do something important for no apparent reason. Today, I can proudly say that I am a part-time procrastinator who spends about an hour max waiting to doing something. (This still isn’t good.)
One useful method – and it could very well be the end of you — to stop procrastination is to try and complete your assignments as quickly and efficiently as possible. The key word here is “efficiently”, though. Anyone can write a thesis paper in two minutes, but trust me, that paper will most likely suck regardless of who is holding the pen.
With that said, be realistic and try to shave off minutes at a time. Consider just how much of the time you spend working is actually spent looking out a window, doodling on a notebook, or as mentioned above, browsing the Internet.
While normally reserved for freelancers trying to count honest billable hours, I recommend using time-tracking apps like WeWorked for this purpose. It may seem a bit silly, but you can actually submit how many hours you have spent working for the week. By doing this, you can look back and estimate how much you could potentially cut down by plugging the time leaks. Be realistic, though, and don’t let the quality of your work suffer for the sake of time.
Manage Your Time Efficiently
Besides going all out and trying to achieve tasks in as little time as possible, managing your time into proper slots is a must-do when preparing for online classes. Part of this is the lack of real-life structure to online classes. Despite the occasional midnight deadline here and there, you are working entirely on your own time. No one tells you where to be and what to bring at any time during the week, and this requires more responsibility on your part.
Since relatively rookie adults and already experienced ones use online classes alike, it’s a bit difficult to write this portion of the article. On one hand, we have a slew of students who are just now adjusting to the responsibility of college itself without even considering the difficulties of an online course. On the other, we have several students going back to school and already know the seriousness of high level education, but the online format may still be new to them.
Regardless of your status, time management battles two things: overworking and procrastination. New and old students alike must realize online courses make these challengers much more powerful. You have only yourself to rely on. Fortunately, we have a few tips to battle procrastination in this article: 6 Tips To Prevent Internet Procrastination. Despite the title, the tips here can help you take on overworking as well.
Prepare Your Game Plan
While it goes without saying, you should really prepare yourself for the upcoming semester. Online classes are tough, and one primary reason for this is the lack of accountability. You don’t walk into a classroom three times a week, discuss last night’s homework with your fellow student in person, or have a professor reminding you when the next assignment is due.
With that said, before classes even legitimately start, you should flip through the syllabus of each course and decide how you will approach everything. Web apps like Semester Planner let you manually enter each upcoming assignment (which may take some time), but it then reorganizes everything in a manner that lets you see which assignment is due the soonest.
Furthermore, if you have repetitive assignments (such as discussions or reflection papers), you should mentally organize the process of how this should be done. By coming up with a mechanical-like routine, you could potentially optimize your time for the best and set an educated goal for timekeeping purposes.
Embrace The Course
Imagine a course with the name like Modern Global Philosophy On Cheese Consumption And Elimination with a professor who has the voice of Ben Stein. Doesn’t seem like the most interesting class in the world, does it? No, no, it isn’t. Classes like this tend to be the hardest and cause the most procrastination, and when it’s based in the online world, it’s even worse. Why? No one wants to do it. (The only thing worse than a professor who speaks like Ben Stein is one who types in the same tone – eek.)
One solution to consider is the idea of making yourself love the course. Yes, it’s possible to make yourself happy about something even when you aren’t. Granted, this is a scary thought, and it’s also how cult brainwashing can occur… Don’t let yourself do that. Anyway.
There aren’t any apps for making yourself happy seeing that no one has been able to wrangle a proper SDK for the human brain. However, when studying a boring course, I recommend devoting yourself to it as much as possible. See what’s cool about it. Is there anything interesting about it whatsoever?
When you find some joy in the middle of something so drab, you’ll be able to fight through it with a much better attitude.
University studies aren’t anything to mess with, and when you take on the added responsibility of taking a course online, you’ll realize how much more difficult it can be. However, if you consider the above tips, you’ll make it out alive!
What other study skills do you have for beating failure? Have any of the above tips worked for you? Can you suggest anything better?