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Four Best Practices for Online Courses During COVID-19 and Beyond

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Whether you've chosen to enroll in distance learning for scheduling purposes or as a result of COVID-19, we understand that online classes can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. So to maximize your education over the long-term, especially if you're dealing with changes as a result of the pandemic, here are some best practices for preparing for and mastering an online class.


Be on Time

When we say, "be on time," we actually mean "show up early." Just because you can roll out of bed and turn on your computer to start class in less than a minute, it doesn't mean that you should. It can be jarring to go directly from one environment to another, especially if you were accustomed to having a commute, so leave room in your modified schedule for a transition. From a big-picture perspective, this means setting up a morning routine that accommodates pre-class rituals like showering or eating breakfast (you don't want dripping wet hair or spilled cereal all over your notes!). But at the very least, as you would with an in-person class, leave yourself a few minutes to get situated and focus your thoughts. This will make you less anxious, especially as you adjust to the new digital environment. Do four things in four minutes:

  1. Set up your space.
  2. Open your notebook (or note-taking file).
  3. Read over your instructor's agenda.
  4. Take a deep breath.

These simple steps will leave you better prepared to participate in class and absorb new information.

Create a Space Conducive to Learning

You can learn from home anywhere in the world that has a strong internet connection, but you will learn best if your environment is clean, calm and distraction-free. Find a corner of your home or bedroom and make it your designated workspace. Even if the rest of the room is a mess, tidy up this one spot and fill it with the supplies you'll need for class like your computer charger, pens, paper and your textbook. If you share a space with roommates or family members, let them know when you have class, so they don't accidentally interrupt and can try to provide peace and quiet. Consider writing your schedule on a whiteboard or poster and sticking it the outside of your door so your "do not disturb" work hours are clear. Lastly, make sure your digital space is clear of clutter. Exit out of all extra tabs on your computer. If you're someone who is tempted to check their phone during class, leave it in another room or turn it off for the duration of class.

Stay Engaged

If you've done the prework of calmly getting to class and effectively setting up your desk, congratulations! Now you can do the actual work, which is to say, absorbing your teacher's lesson. This is easier said than done, especially from home, but the trick's the same as it would be in a physical classroom: keep yourself busy! Take notes by hand or on the computer (if you have a split screen that lets you keep your eyes on the presentation while typing). Above all, make use of any interactive functions, whether that's a hand-raise function or chat box, or being able to use a camera and/or microphone to directly engage in conversations with others. There are ways to participate no matter how vocal you tend to be in a classroom setting. Experiment and see what methods keep you most interested and involved in your online courses.

Schedule Homework Time

While some in-person classes leave time at the end to get a head start on assignments, that is one feature that doesn't translate well to online learning. Without the built-in prep time, you're going to need to schedule time outside of class specifically for homework. Especially if you have group work, it's imperative that everyone is on the same page and aware of timelines, goals and deadlines. Whether you plan out daily tasks or select three items to accomplish before the next class, keeping track of your to-do list will be important. Our best advice? Keep a detailed agenda. The more you have written down and tied to a date, the less likely you are to let a deadline slip.

Mastering the techniques for taking an online course is, in itself, a valuable skill to learn, especially as businesses expand their remote-work options. Don't miss the opportunity this semester to improve your ability to work in this fashion, as online options can be hugely beneficial in your college and graduate career, especially if you're looking for flexibility. For additional information college in the age of COVID-19, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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