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10 Online Learning Tips for College Students

WVU Online | Wednesday, May 15, 2024

There are many perks to taking online classes, from being able to log in at any time to watching lectures at your favorite coffee shop. This increased flexibility is one reason online classes have grown in popularity.

However, choosing online learning also comes with some unique challenges. With online classes, you must have strong time management skills as you do not see an instructor face-to-face to remind you of upcoming due dates. You also must have consistent access to technology and strong online communication skills so you can connect with students and professors.

So, before you log on to your next online course, let’s take a look at 10 tips to help make online learning a breeze.

Set Up a Workspace

Whether you live at home, in an off-campus apartment, or in a dorm, you’ll want to designate a dedicated workspace for your online learning. While it can be tempting to work from your bed or couch, setting up a dedicated workspace will help you focus on your courses.

Sitting at your workspace will send a signal to your mind that it’s time to work. Make sure your workspace is well-lit with a desk lamp or a window with natural light to keep you from getting drowsy.

Your workspace should have a stable internet connection. Consider using an ethernet cord to make the connection as reliable as possible. Your workspace should also have plenty of paper, notecards, and pens for writing notes and reminders by hand.

"Having a dedicated workspace helped me tremendously in grad school. Having a set space for work helped me sit down and not focus on other things around the house. I still use my desk today for that work with my internship because it helps in the same sense. Setting weekly times for work on school also helps," says Missy Dhyne, WVU Online Student Ambassador.

Keep Your Own Calendar

With online courses, it can be easy to miss deadlines for coursework since you’re not getting in-person reminders. This makes it very important to keep an organized calendar of your own.

WVU Online Student Ambassador Laura Simmons advises, "For online courses, put all your assignments in your calendar of choice. Set your due date at least 2 days before the actual due date."

Setting your due date a bit early is a great tip because you’ll never have to experience the anxiety of racing to turn something in at 11:59 p.m. before it’s due at midnight. Giving yourself a two-day buffer can also help if you catch any last-minute errors in your work or if you need to supplement your paper with more research.

At the beginning of each semester, use your syllabus to plug in key dates to your calendar, including homework assignments, paper due dates, and exams. Try breaking up larger to-dos into smaller tasks with their own due dates. You can also set up reminders on your digital calendar to notify you an important due date is coming up.

Minimize Distractions

In today’s world, we constantly feel the pull of our phones, iPads, TVs, and more interesting tabs on our computers.

In 2014, internet users spent nearly 2.5 hours on social media sites per day. When it’s time to focus on schoolwork, try to minimize distractions by placing your phone in another room or setting it to do-not-disturb.

Set screen time limits on your phone for sites where you’re constantly scrolling but don’t get much done. You can also use website blockers on your computer to keep you off sites that are a time suck. Use headphones to block out any noise in your living area. You can also try playing classical or instrumental music to eliminate noise and help you focus.

Minimizing distractions and dedicating your time to studying will help you learn better and retain more information.

Schedule Study Time Into Your Day

Everyone has their own schedule and study times that work best for them.

Be sure to set aside time in advance for studying and online coursework and stick to a consistent schedule. Try adding study time to your normal daily activities by spending your commute listening to lecture recordings.

"Set a time each day to work on your classes. For me, I spent my lunch hour studying, and then once my kids went to bed at night, I did any homework or papers," says Jen C Mueller, WVU Online Student Ambassador.

Having set study times will make it more likely for you to stick to your schedule. Even if you’re currently caught up on courses, you can use this time to tackle some supplementary reading. Before you know it, these blocked-off study hours will become integral to your routine.

Connect On Social Media

If you’re taking mostly online courses, it can sometimes feel like you’re isolated from other students. An easy way to fix this is to connect with your university and other students through social media.

Be sure to follow relevant pages and accounts run by your school to stay up to date on upcoming events and opportunities.

Check to see if there are groups on social media for your major so you can meet more people and network. As you get more acquainted with people in your online classes, you can also ask if they want to become friends on social media.

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Try the Pomodoro Technique

Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work on your plate? The Pomodoro Technique can help you break down large amounts of work into more manageable buckets.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you choose one task, set a timer for 25 minutes, work on your task until time is up, and then take a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoro sessions, you take a longer 15–30 minute break.

The Pomodoro Technique will help you tackle your to-do list and stay productive. The 25-minute intervals provide structure and a sense of urgency, while the 5-minute breaks give your brain a rest and a short reward.

This technique may take time and discipline to master. Make sure to set timers and hold yourself to them. Try your best to stick to the schedule, and don't let your short 5-minute breaks turn into 10 or 20 minutes.

Make Participation A Priority

Online courses offer flexibility, but for some students, it can be a challenge to stay engaged. You’ll get the most out of your coursework if you prioritize participation.

Here are a few ways you can participate in an online class setting:

  • Raise your virtual hand in group lectures to answer or ask questions.
  • Keep your camera on so you’re more likely to stay engaged.
  • Be detailed in your responses to online discussion board questions.
  • Keep practicing, even if it feels uncomfortable at first to speak in class.
  • Communicate with your fellow students outside of class via Google Chat or Hangout.

“In the virtual world, meeting and connecting with classmates can be awkward or even weird; however, make the effort.

Use Google chat to keep in touch "outside" of class work time but still during the semester.

Be yourself. Treat your classmates like you would if you were seeing them in person. Be real. Stay connected on whatever scale that is for you.

Use the resources WVU already has in place! Google Sites, Google Chat, and Google Meetup are useful and free," says Brittany Stout, WVU Online Student Ambassador.

Treat College Like A Job

Treating college like it’s a job you have to do can help you manage your time and get more done.

Decide how many hours you want to devote each week to college as your “job” and stick to that number.

If you can, try to choose what time you want to start and end working on your courses each day. This will help you stay consistent and help you plan activities around school. When you treat college like a job, you can more easily balance work and the rest of your daily activities and responsibilities.

"When I first started college, I was told to think of it as a job. Get your 6–8 hours of work in each day, or however much you see fit, and be done for the day. I found this to be immensely beneficial, as I struggled at first with balancing school and everyday life. I did around seven or so hours each day during the week so that I could have the weekends to relax," says Ashton Frame, WVU Online Student Ambassador.

This is especially good advice if you’re balancing multiple priorities with school.

Switch Up Your Study Spots

While it’s important to have a dedicated workspace at home, it can also be beneficial to switch up where you study and explore different environments.

With online learning, you’re not confined to a classroom.

This means you can study anywhere around your community. Try your local library, coffee shops in your area, and even nearby parks.

Everyone has a different way of working. You may find you work better when surrounded by people or nature. Getting out of the house also gives you a chance to expand your network and meet other people who may also be studying.

Talk With Professors

Just because you’re not on campus doesn’t mean you can’t form valuable professional relationships with them.

Email your professors to introduce yourself at the beginning of your course, and don’t be afraid to email them with questions as your class progresses.

Many instructors will hold "virtual office hours" where you can video conference with them to get to know them better or ask questions about your coursework.

Building relationships with professors can help you go far in your education and in your career after graduation. Professors are often your main source of letters of recommendation, so it’s important to make a positive impression.

Explore Online Learning Opportunities at WVU Online!

Online learning can offer incredible flexibility without sacrificing any of the perks of in-person courses. If you’re looking to further your education, WVU Online is the school for you.

From associate degrees to graduate certificates, WVU Online has educational paths for every type of student.

Explore our range of degrees here, and chat with an online admissions coach for more personal guidance on finding the right path for you.

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