How To Be Successful in Online Classes (From an Online College Student)

How To Be Successful in Online Classes (From an Online College Student)
Recruiting students from across the U.S., Campus is the new alternative to online community college. We’re on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education to set students up for success no matter what their next step is. Read on to learn about our students’ unique experiences.

When I enrolled in my online college program, I was nervous about going to classes. Some schools offer courses that are asynchronous (ones that you take at your own pace with very limited interaction with professors and your classmates), but the classes Campus offers are synchronous. In other words, all of the classes that I’ve been taking take place in real time, so all of my professors and classmates interact live from wherever they are. At first, it seemed like a lot of pressure.

But after taking the plunge, I realized that my online classes were not nearly as intimidating as I originally thought. I thought that it would be great to share some of my experiences and the things that I’ve learned that have helped me when it comes to navigating online classes. Understanding how to take an online class effectively is key to overcoming initial apprehensions.

Tips for Mastering Live, Online Classes

Here are some strategies for successful online learning that have proven effective for me:

1. Participate in Discussions

Let’s be real – connecting with your classmates online can be incredibly awkward when you don’t know them, but frankly it’s just like in-person classrooms. During my first couple of weeks of classes, I dreaded the idea of having a conversation with a few random strangers I’d never really met before about topics related to what we covered in class, but taking the time to actively engage with your classmates can really help you connect with the material. Learning how to be successful in online classes involves actively participating in discussions, even when it feels uncomfortable initially.

In fact, I will never forget being in my Intro to Business class, having an in-depth conversation with my classmates in our small groups and just learning more about each other. Those three classmates are now my best friends today. They’re actually the people I rely on most to support me personally through the rest of my time here at Campus. Establishing connections with classmates is essential for successful online learning experiences.

photo of Yasmine Pomeroy, one of the Campus Student Support Coaches
Yasmine Pomeroy, Campus Student Support Coach

2. Communicate With Your Professors

One of the crucial aspects of successful online learning is maintaining open communication with professors throughout the course. Like having discussions with classmates online, reaching out and communicating with your professors can feel strange at first, but I promise you, they’re happy when you take the time to get to know them. Open communication with your professor can take a lot of pressure off as you go through the term – especially if you have any questions or concerns about what you’re learning in class.

When I first started college, I shied away from talking to my professors because I always assumed that they were really intimidating and that they would be critical of me and my work, but that’s just not the case. Overcoming this initial hesitation is vital for mastering live, online classes. Professors aren’t hurdles between you and your degree. Instead, they’re in your corner to help you navigate the subject in whatever way you may need help with, and taking advantage of office hours is a great way to get started. Recognizing that professors are there to support your academic journey is essential for successful online learning.

For my Intro to American Politics class, I took advantage of office hours to connect with Dr. Steven Kelts, who also teaches at Princeton (talk about intimidating!). I was really nervous at first, but he actually helped me process some complex issues that I had to address in an upcoming argumentative assignment. I felt pretty lost and overwhelmed by how open-ended it was, but he helped me work through some court cases and complex wording to help me make sure I understood the argument that I was trying to defend. Without reaching out to him, I don’t think I would have ever been able to tackle the course material on my own. Seeking guidance from professors is a fundamental part of successful online learning experiences.

All this to say, communication is key for making sure that you’re on track, especially when it comes to professors. Utilizing available resources and communication channels is crucial for ensuring success in online classes. Don't hesitate to reach out. They are there to support you and help you succeed.

3. Use Available Resources

Many college programs give students access to resources for academic support, and online community colleges are no exception. Implementing successful online learning strategies involves utilizing available resources effectively. If you find yourself in a place where you could use some extra help with classes – or an upcoming paper – take advantage of tutoring services and library resources. Knowing how to take an online class involves utilizing available academic support services when needed. These both can really enhance your learning experience and make studying easier.

Some schools can offer you resources beyond just the ones you could use for classes, too. For example, my online degree program also gives me access to an online wellness service that connects me with mental health and emotional support professionals whenever I need it. It also gives me the chance to talk to trained counselors in my area six times a year, all for free. Having access to an incredible resource like this has really helped me process my day-to-day stress and encouraged me to take care of myself as I work towards my academic and career goals. Incorporating self-care practices into your routine is essential for successful online learning.

If you’re ever in need of services like these, be sure to talk to your advisors! Seeking guidance from academic advisors is another valuable aspect of successful online learning. Sometimes these resources might be a little tricky to find, but they are well worth the effort.

In Conclusion: Take that First Step

Suffering in silence as a student will cause you more harm than good in your college experience, and it tends to happen way more than you may think. Implementing these strategies can significantly contribute to your success in online classes. That’s why I believe one of the biggest takeaways students should get from this piece, if nothing else, is the importance of reaching out!

Implementing successful online learning strategies can lead to meaningful connections and academic success. Making connections with your classmates can help you form study groups and build lifelong friendships. Talking to your professors during office hours will help you get a better handle on the material and can help build professional relationships that will reflect really well in a letter of recommendation.

Connecting with your program’s staff can help you ensure you’re on track and getting the help you need inside the classroom and beyond. All of these social connections are vital for any student’s college success, so never hesitate to reach out!

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