Practical Tips for Success in Online College Courses

by Hudson Rose
Practical Tips for Success in Online College Courses

How to Be Successful In Online College Courses

Online College courses are beneficial because they save you time on commuting to class. They can  definitely free up your schedule if you register for courses that are not synced, so you do not have any live class sessions to attend. 

Many people who take online classes work full time, take care of family and have other responsibilities. In addition to this, some students will take just 1 class per semester online due to scheduling conflicts. 

I have been an adjunct professor since 2016 and teaching exclusively online for the past 2 years. As more students are taking courses online, there are common challenges to online courses that can be alleviated by practicing a few of the following strategies.

Read The Syllabus in its Entirety For Understanding

Spend time with the syllabus so that you fully understand what the assignments are, when they are due and how you will access them. There may even be a description of the assignments, make sure you read through this. Read through the overall purpose of the course. 

All of the information in the syllabus is important because it gives you the framework/structure for you to organize and understand how the course is progressing over the semester. It is well worth the time to sit with the syllabus. 

If you do not have a good understanding of the purpose of the course, the assignments and how to succeed in the class you are missing something. 

Go back, read the syllabus for understanding. Are there assignments due every week? Twice a week? If you have sat with the syllabus for over 30 minutes and have a specific question, contact the professor. 

Purchase The Textbook Early

Many online courses are moving to having the textbooks be an ebook, where all of your assignments will be posted and submitted online in the ebook. Any delay in obtaining your ebook will cause you to fall behind and it is very difficult to catch back up once this occurs. 

Also, the assignments typically close at a certain date and time, which causes extra work for the professor to open it back up for you or have to send you the assignment information individually. 

Early Engagement Is Imperative

Within the first week of your course your professor has to submit an attendance form to the school. If you have not purchased your ebook or otherwise engaged in some fashion in the class that first week your professor may mark you as being absent (not participating in the class). This can cause issues for you with your financial aid. 

If there are no assignments due during that first week, that’s fine, but buy  your ebook, the teacher can see who has done this. If there is no official assignment but a discussion board to introduce yourself, that is an easy way for you to let your attendance in the class be known. 

Every semester there are a few students who contact me two to three weeks into the course asking to make up the work. Don’t be this person. Also, if you know you are experiencing some type of emergency, contact the professor ahead of time so they can help you problem solve for that particular class.

Protocol For Contacting Your Professor

You need to communicate before there is a major problem with scheduling or an assignment. Make sure when you contact your professor you do so with the means they posted in the syllabus. 

Many are adjunct professors and work other full time jobs, so avoid contacting them in 3 different ways. Often, I will be contacted by 1 student on blackboard message, my school email, and my personal email all with the same question. So I have to take time out of my day to respond “this was answered already on X date via X means.” Very frustrating for your professor. Know how they prefer you to contact them. 

When you do contact them they need your full name, the course name, the section if you can and what assignment you are specifically talking about. I prefer students to contact my personal email so that I can respond in real time on my phone but often times emails will get lost because they do not include this information. 

Date and Time Assignments Are Due

When taking an online class the assignments will close by a certain date and time and you will no longer be able to access them. It is a lot of extra work for the professor to deal with late assignments merely because you were not keeping track of your schedule properly. 

At the beginning of the semester while you are going through the syllabus, enter in the due date and time for major assignments, set your alarm reminders beforehand so that you do not miss the deadline. 

Also, do not ask for extensions for a non emergency for example because it is your birthday. We all have special occasions we want to celebrate, plan accordingly because your work comes first. 

Failing to Take Your Time with Assignments

There is something about online classes that people think they can slop something together quickly but that is noticed. Take the time to properly complete your assignments, go through various drafts, reread/edit written assignments and practice video submissions before recording them. I personally would not draft, complete and submit an assignment all in the same day. You need a fresh set of eyes to look over your work on a different day before submitting it for grading.

Take your time during the submission process to be sure you are submitting the proper assignment. Every semester someone uploads the wrong submission. Do not let this be you.  

In Class Time Is Made Up For

Another thing to consider is that online courses can be more challenging because they are almost self taught. They typically are reading and assignment heavy in comparison to in person classes where the professor is talking a lot or there are group assignments. You will need to adjust your mentality to realize that the amount of time you would have been in the classroom is now being completed online. In addition to that you have the same out of classroom prep.

I wish you a ton of success in your online courses!

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