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How To Handle Online Courses

If given a choice between physically being present in a class or taking it online in the safety of your own home and comfort of your pajamas, which would you choose? I'm sure it's not surprising the amount of people who would choose the online courses. It might be for convenience purposes or because you work full-time and need to fit classes in on your own time. Perhaps you have anxiety. There are a multitude of reasons to choose to take classes online rather than in person.

The thing to know about online classes is that they are (obviously) not a normal lecture. It really takes a lot of tweaking to your normal work ethic to get used to the pace and timing of online courses. I took my first class online last semester and am taking my second, third, and fourth this semester. Based on last semester and how I'm going to handle the online load this semester, here are some tips and tricks on handling and managing a online class (or two!)


This is the most important thing you could do when taking online classes. Write down days discussion board posts need to be completed, deadlines for quizzes, papers, and other assignments that may be given throughout the semester. Color coordinate your online classes on a calendar or in your agenda with a different color so you don't get confused and mix up dates.

2. Print out syllabi and supplementary information

I hate referencing syllabi online, so I print out every single one to have it physically with me whenever I need to double check a due date, what chapter we're working on, rubrics, etc. Some of my classes have extra information in folders, like the format of a certain series of assignments, paper topics, and standards for discussion board etiquette. Those are important and nice to have on hand as well so you don't have to scroll through pages of extra material.

3. Force yourself to focus

It's going to be so easy, like it is doing any homework, to reward yourself for ten minutes of work. With an online class, you can't do that as often as you would with an in-person lecture. You need to sort of force yourself and tell yourself that you need to get this done because there is going to be no review or reinforcement during class the next day. You will not get work done if you spend the entire week putting it off or lollygaggling while you're doing it.

4. Actually DO the reading

Online quizzes may always seem open book, so reading the book seems silly, right? Not reading the text will come back around and bite you in the butt, one way or another. There's no lectures or notes to fall back on when you don't know something. Your main source of information is going to come from your textbook or supplementary readings. Not doing them is a total disservice to yourself and could affect your success in the class.

5. Get yourself on a schedule

Since you essentially get to work on these assignments on your own schedule, I recommend picking a day and time period to work on it so it feels like an actual class rather than an online class. I do my online class coursework early afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I don't have class. This gives me the weekend free from those three classes and keeps me on a schedule. I like my life to be regimented so having certain days dedicated to my online classes makes it easy to stay on track and keep my life in order.

6. Don't be afraid to e-mail your professor with questions or meet them in person

This goes for both in person and online classes. Never be afraid to e-mail your professor with questions if you don't understand an assignment or don't get a part of the chapter or unit. That's why they're there! Even setting up a meeting with a professor you have online works. Some may even be available during Skype. Just because there's nobody physically lecturing you in your presence doesn't mean you don't have somebody available to answer your questions about the course.

Have you taken online courses before? Do you like them better than in-person lectures?


  1. I took an online class once and I failed miserably because I totally forgot when assignments were due. I never set up a schedule and I really should have because each assignment required 50 pages of reading. Since I'm going to take an online course this summer, I needed to figure out what would help me stay focused! Thank you for all your help!


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