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10 Tips For Taking Online Classes In College

Online classes are appealing to many students looking for flexibility and convenience, but do they have the same educational value as in-person classes? Check out our tips for taking online classes to ensure a high-quality learning experience. 

With these tips, you will learn how to be a successful online student, how to manage your time well, and make sure you are getting the most out of your online courses. Whether you are already in college or still deciding where to earn your degree, these recommendations can transform your experience taking online classes.

a college student taking notes during an online class

Search for online and hybrid learning degrees based on your interests at Unity Environmental University.

How Does Online College Work?

Before you can understand how to succeed in online classes, you need to understand how online college works. Online college classes occur 100% remotely. Some schools like Unity Environmental University offer full degree programs completed through asynchronous online courses, providing flexibility for students to complete them at their own pace. Other schools may offer some online classes mixed with in-person classes, which is referred to as hybrid learning. Unity Environmental University also offers hybrid programs at its Maine campus.

Both online and in-person classes have their pros and cons, but you may find that one works better for you than the other or that you like a mix. Online college classes are usually asynchronous, meaning there is no set class meeting time. Students complete weekly assignments at any time that is convenient for them as long as it’s before the due date. This means online classes have a lot more flexibility with timing than in-person classes. There may be more discussion requirements to make up for the lack of class time.

Tips For Online Learning Success

While taking an online class doesn’t require any special skills, there are some best practices that can improve your experience and the return on investment in what you paid for the class. Every student is different, so consider these tips for online learning to be a suggested roadmap to navigating and excelling in the virtual classroom.

Set Up A Dedicated Study Space

A study space is a physical area that encourages focus and productivity. It should be removed from distractions as much as possible. For example, if you share a home with many family members, try to find a quiet corner to set up your study space. By consistently doing your schoolwork in this space, you will be training your brain to associate the space with working time, which further increases productivity.

A good study environment will have plenty of clear space for you to open books, a laptop, and a notebook. A messy space can be distracting. You will also want a comfortable chair and good lighting to signal to your brain that it’s time to work. 

Establish Clear Goals For Each Course

At the beginning of each course, review the syllabus and make notes of the workload’s flow and major assignment due dates. These will be important in managing your time throughout the semester. Consider using the SMART goal framework to create specific, measurable objectives for each class. Think about your long-term goals for academic and personal development and how each online class can help you reach them.

Explore the immersive online programs available through Unity Environmental University’s Distance Education.

Create A Consistent Schedule

Create blocks in your schedule for specific tasks. Generally, you do not want to work for more than a couple hours without taking a break for your brain and to move your body. Write your schedule down either in a digital calendar, paper calendar, or planner. How you choose to write out your schedule is less important than doing it consistently and in a way that you will refer back to daily. 

Practice Time Management Skills

Online classes require more intrinsic motivation and time management skills than in-person classes. You will not be getting verbal reminders from your professors in class about assignment due dates, upcoming exams, etc. You have to be on top of due dates and prioritize tasks well. Consider setting alarms on your phone if you like audio reminders or setting up a monthly calendar in your room if you like visual reminders. 

Start Early And Avoid Procrastination

It can be tempting to procrastinate, but waiting until the last minute to complete an assignment means you do not have any buffer time in the event of an emergency or if the task takes you longer to complete than expected. Starting early means you can ask questions as they come up and likely produce higher-quality work than you would if you were rushed. If you are prone to procrastination, ask yourself:

  • Why am I anxious about starting this task? 
  • How can I break the task into smaller pieces?
  • How can I reward myself for completing the first piece of this task?

Actively Participate In Online Discussions

A key to how to be successful in online classes is being proactive. The more you engage in your coursework, the more value you will get out of your college experience. This is true for in-person and online classes. Engagement with peers and instructors through online discussions can deepen understanding of course material. Think about building on the ideas that your classmates share. Another great strategy is to ask questions specifically to other students who haven’t shared yet and follow up on their answers.

Unity promotes high-quality online education through experiential yet purposeful instructional design.

Build A Support Network With Classmates

Taking online classes can feel lonely. To mitigate this, try connecting with fellow students for mutual support as much as possible. Peers can help hold each other accountable, study together, and provide encouragement through digital platforms. Consider setting up virtual study sessions over video chat. Have questions about what online classes are like at a specific school or in a specific program? Student ambassadors can be a great resource.

Seek Tech Support And Help Early

Are you wondering how to be successful in an online course if you are not a tech-savvy person? The answer is relatively simple but can be difficult for many students – ask for help. It is common for college students to struggle with navigating online courses or completing assignments on time, but they often do not communicate with their professors or advisors, consequently not getting the help they need.

Most schools, including Unity Environmental University, have support for online students where you can get help with technology, troubleshooting support, and even academic tutoring. The sooner you ask for help, the more likely you are to avoid a stressful situation later. Universities are there to support their students, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and utilize the resources available! It can also help to practice logging in and using the online class platform and all features during the first week, so you know what you will need help with.

Higher education is valuable in many ways and more accessible than ever with affordable online degree programs. 

Take Advantage Of Online Resources

When you are taking in-person classes, you have access to a variety of on-campus resources that online students cannot access. However, there are many online resources to enhance learning that distance education students can take advantage of, such as:

  • Your institution’s online libraries
  • Institutionally-provided educational platforms
  • Professors’ virtual office hours
  • Academic journals 
  • AI chatbots such as Unity Environmental University’s Spruce
  • Digital tools for organization

During your designated study times, explore some of these resources and think about how you can incorporate them into your study routines. You may find successful online learning strategies such as digital note-taking work well for you. Experimentation is the most effective way to discover what works best for the individual learner.

Maintain A Healthy Work-Life Balance

One of the most important tips for taking online classes is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. A healthy mix of fun, physical activity, and time with loved ones is just as crucial as completing all your schoolwork. Maintaining a clear schedule and designated workspace can help ensure a balance between academic responsibilities, personal life, and other responsibilities. If you struggle with managing stress during school, try adding intentional relaxation time, exercise, or a fun hobby to your schedule, and just as you do with schoolwork, stick to it! 

unity environmental university logo

How To Be A Successful Online College Student

In addition to the tips above, let’s explore how to take online classes from a technical perspective. You will need access to a computer and reliable high-speed internet connection to successfully complete an online course. The required specifications for your computer hardware and software will depend on which educational platforms and technologies your school is using for online classes. You can always reach out to the university for technology support.

Finally, build some reflection time into your schedule to evaluate your progress, engagement, and overall satisfaction with the online learning experience. As you take more online courses, you can fine-tune the organization and time management systems that work best for you, keeping your long-term goals as your primary guide.

Students smile at the camera in their caps and gowns during Commencement.

Earn A Degree Online At Unity Environmental University

Whether you are seeking to earn a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, you can complete your coursework 100% online without sacrificing the quality of your education. Unity Distance Education programs include experiential learning to provide all students with real-world, hands-on experience in their chosen field of study.

We know many distance-learning students have busy schedules, so our courses are designed with that in mind. Unity’s five-week courses are structured to help students effectively focus on the subject of the course, and each course has multiple start dates throughout the year. Study wherever and whenever it’s most convenient for you!