Nine online learning tips for college students

Apr 09, 2020

Because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, universities around the country have moved their spring semester in-person classes to an online format.

For many, this transition can be a struggle when you do your best learning face to face in a classroom. The ability to interact in person with peers and professors is a huge benefit to education.

However, there are ways you can make your online learning successful. With these tips, transitioning from the classroom to a computer can be smooth and less stressful.

#1 – Understand your platform

The first step to being a successful online learner is knowing the ins and outs of your online platform. Programs like Zoom, Canvas and Blackboard are incredibly beneficial tools for online education, but it can take some time to scale their learning curves.

One way to obtain a greater knowledge of these platforms is simply by following a tutorial if one is available. In addition, there is absolutely no shame in a quick Google search. Questions such as, “How do I respond in a discussion board on Blackboard?” or “How do I enable breakout rooms in Zoom?” will can bring up countless video tutorials and step-by-step guides.

It is always best to familiarize yourself with a platform before your classes begin so you feel fully prepared for an online session or know exactly what to do when it is time to turn an assignment in.

#2 – Keep in touch with professors

Just like any other professional, educational or social relationship, communication is key for online learning.

At the end of the day, everyone is human, and everyone makes mistakes on occasion or cannot meet a deadline. In the comfort of a physical classroom setting, it is easy to walk in and explain to your professor, “My boss needs me to work overtime this week and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to have a draft written by Friday. Do you think you could grant an extension?”

This is where email eloquence and written communication becomes especially important since you’ll likely make a request in that manner. The ability to explain your situation to a professor in an honest and professional manner is an important skill to develop.

#3 – Phone a friend

Whether you know someone from other classes or are starting in a completely new online setting, having a friend is one of the best ways to maintain accountability.

A text message asking, “Hey, could you help me study over the phone for bio this evening?” or “Is our rough draft due this Wednesday?” is helpful, easy and keeps both of you on track.

#4 – Separate “school” from “home”

Working or learning from home can be a particularly strange feeling for those who are not accustomed to it.

Home is where you go to sit around in your PJs and stream movies and TV shows all day, yet suddenly you have to work in such a cozy environment?

When facing such a strange dilemma, there needs to be a degree of separation between “school” and “home.”

After you wake up at 8:40 a.m. to get ready for your 9 a.m. class, think to yourself, “Alright, it’s time to go to class.” The psychological acknowledgment of school is typically enough to offset the strangeness of online learning.

#5 – Make a list or set goals

Humans crave order. When this order is disrupted, things tend to feel rather chaotic. To find order in this chaos, try creating a checklist or setting some goals — both short term and long term. You have a sociology test on Friday, 20 stoichiometry problems due Thursday and a College Writing II paper that needs to be turned in before midnight on Sunday.

Altogether, these tasks seem immense and overwhelming. However, if you do 10 problems on Monday and 10 on Wednesday, study for an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Thursday, write two pages Friday and two pages Saturday, everything is suddenly more manageable. Better yet, it is all done on time. 

#6 – Eliminate distractions

Of course, some external circumstances can make one equation last for an hour. 

In this magnificent era of technology, every single electronic device is a blessing and a curse. They are used as utilities for convenience, databases for information and sources of entertainment.

When it comes time to writing a 10-page paper, however, it is likely not the time to send out daily Snapchat streaks or scroll through Twitter for hours on end.

Therefore, to avoid getting stuck in a YouTube rabbit hole explaining the social hierarchy of ants just to procrastinate, it is best to turn off your phone or put it in another room. TikTok will still be there after your paper is finished.

#7 – Have a schedule

After following the tips, you know how to operate Canvas, you have been keeping up with professors and peers, you know when you are supposed to be in class, you are holding a checklist and your phone is locked up somewhere in Fort Knox — now what?

The best thing to do from here is to have a daily schedule. Make a routine and devote yourself to it so that your beautiful system does not go to waste. Find out what works best for you, learn when you are most productive and use that to your advantage.

#8 – Enjoy the perks of online learning

As long as you are staying on track, there is absolutely nothing wrong with appreciating the advantages of learning from home. Want to stay in your pajamas all day? Go right ahead! Feel like petting your cat while listening to a lecture? Whiskers won’t mind! Need a cup of tea before cracking down on an essay? Just don’t forget the honey!

While maintaining the balance of productivity and leisure, for these reasons and more, online learning can be enjoyable.

#9 – Be ready for anything

In an unprecedented situation that gives you little control, the best you can do is roll with the punches. Do your best to be flexible, and learn to adapt to whatever challenges may stand in your way, and you can continue to be a star student from your bedroom.