Online courses are becoming an increasingly popular way to earn college credits while saving time and money. From high school students looking to fulfill general education requirements before arriving on campus to professionals who need to balance work, family, and school, online courses provide quality education at a fraction of the cost of many in-person institutions.
Whatever your reason for considering an online education, here are some of our best tips for success along your journey.
What Are Online Classes?
Online classes are educational courses delivered via the Internet that allow individuals to pursue learning from any location with an Internet connection. These courses can cover a broad spectrum, ranging from academic subjects to professional development.
Two common formats include synchronous classes, where participants engage in real-time interactions, and asynchronous classes, which provide flexibility as learners can access materials at their own pace. Synchronous courses often involve live video sessions and real-time discussions, while asynchronous courses rely on pre-recorded content and discussion boards.
Why Take Online Classes?
There are many reasons why someone might choose to take online classes. Here are some of the most common.
Earn Credits for Graduation
Many online platforms offer common core classes that can help students at traditional schools earn credits in a more affordable and flexible way. By earning your core credits online, you can focus your traditional educational path on taking classes for your major or courses that you’re interested in.
Try a New Field of Study
Online classes are a great way to try a single class in a subject that might interest you before you commit to a full degree program. Platforms such as StraighterLine offer monthly memberships that allow you to take an unlimited number of courses.
Fill in Gaps
Online courses often help students retake classes or fill in gaps on their own time. For example, if you had to withdraw from a class at your traditional school, you might consider taking an equivalent course online and transferring credits in time for graduation.
For adults already in the working world, online classes provide a convenient way to continue your professional development so you can move forward in your career — or change careers altogether. Online course programs like StraighterLine’s Career Pathways can help you get started on your new journey.
6 Tips for Online Class Success
Whatever your reason for trying online classes, here are some tips for maximizing your learning success.
1. Create Your Learning Environment
Before you get started, establish a dedicated learning environment to optimize your online class experience. Choose a quiet space, separate from daily activities, to minimize distractions and enhance focus. A well-defined study area will help you get into a learning mindset.
Your learning space should include essential tools like a reliable computer and comfortable seating. A clutter-free area helps you clear mental space for concentrated study. Distraction blockers like Block Site for Chrome can help you maintain your focus during study sessions.
2. Set a Schedule
A structured routine not only enhances time management but also helps you maintain a disciplined approach to learning. Figure out how much time you’ll need to devote to your course, including watching lectures and completing any homework or projects, and allocate specific time blocks into your schedule.
If you’ve never had to make a schedule for yourself, or if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a school schedule, try using digital tools like calendars and reminders. Apps like ToDoist can help you set clear deadlines and set daily study periods.
Try to create a schedule that aligns with your peak productivity hours and accommodates potential disruptions. Remember to factor in breaks to prevent burnout and take care of yourself! You can always adjust your schedule as needed as life happens and you start to settle into your new school routine.
3. Stay Engaged
What does it mean to “stay engaged” in your online class, and why is it important? Staying engaged means actively participating in your class. Doing so enhances your comprehension and retention of course material. You can do this by attending virtual study groups that encourage collaborative learning with your peers. Look for social media groups or course-related online chats that provide avenues for discussion with your classmates and instructor.
Stay engaged by practicing effective study habits, such as regular review sessions and active note-taking. This type of consistent interaction not only helps you understand the subject matter but also establishes a sense of community within the virtual classroom. Since you won’t be seeing people face to face, you’ll need to be proactive in your online class engagement.
4. Utilize Online Resources
An easy way to stay engaged is by utilizing the online resources available to you through your learning platform. You may be given access to forums and message boards that facilitate peer-to-peer interaction, or there may be online student help centers for any of your questions related to navigating technical issues, understanding assignments, and accessing additional learning materials.
Take advantage of downloadable reference materials. Not only are these resources valuable supplements to lectures and textbooks, but they’ll help you keep up with your assignments if you lose Internet access.
5. Set Goals
Any class, whether online or in-person, can feel overwhelming at first, especially if you have additional work or family obligations. Protect your mental health by breaking down your academic tasks into manageable daily and semester goals. Set realistic objectives, like committing to a specific amount of daily writing for an essay or ensuring the timely completion of assignments. (This is where setting a schedule comes in handy.)
Reaching smaller goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated and focused. As your completion of these smaller goals starts to accumulate, you’ll have a tangible measure of your incredible progress.
6. Treat Online Courses the Same as “Real” Courses
Just because a course is taken online doesn’t mean it’s not a “real” course. You’ll be learning the same materials here as you would in an in-person classroom, so treat live lectures as you would if you were there in person. Be on-time. Actively participate in discussions. Prioritize thorough note-taking to solidify your understanding and aid future review.
Offline assignments are no different than in-person assignments and should be treated the same way. This means doing your best to hand in all assignments on time, study for tests, and do your best work.
Every Class Is Different
Some classes you take might affect the way these best practice tips work. For example, science classes might require you to collect specific materials on your own for lab work. Online English classes usually require a great deal more reading and writing than math classes, which could mean setting aside a larger block of time for yourself. But whatever courses you take, keep your ultimate learning goal in mind.
Find Online Learning Success With StraighterLine
StraighterLine has been providing students with a path to online learning success since 2008. When you choose to learn with us, you’ll enjoy benefits like 24/7 student support, credit transfer to thousands of colleges and universities, and affordable classes that are flexible enough to work with any schedule. Start your StraighterLine journey now by checking out our many course offerings.