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Feeling Overwhelmed? 6 Tips for Succeeding in Online Classes

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Online classes are becoming increasingly popular, but they can often be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you aren't properly prepared. Continue reading for some helpful hints that can help you succeed in online classes.

A Glance at Online Classes

If you're reading this, it's probably safe to say that you've at least contemplated the idea of online learning. Maybe you're already enrolled in online classes. Either way, congratulations on the next step in your education!

According to Montgomery College in Maryland, online classes can be extremely beneficial for a number of reasons, including:

  • Flexibility: You can work on them conveniently at your own pace and on your own time.
  • Comfort: They allow you to complete your studies from the comfort of your own home.
  • Affordability: When you think of driving back and forth to college multiple times a week, paying a sitter (if you have kids), and eating food on the run, it's easy to see how online classes can save you money.

On the flip side, online classes can also be pretty overwhelming and stressful for beginners. Luckily there are some handy tips that can help you successfully tackle online classes.

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Helpful Hints for Online Students

1. Make sure you're comfortable and familiar with technology.

Before you begin any online coursework, it's very important that you are not only capable of operating a computer, but also familiar with all of your classes' technical requirements (e.g., internet speed, specific software or hardware, etc.). You should also make sure that the computer you plan to use is compatible with (or already running) the programs and tools that your classes require. For example, many classes require Microsoft Word for word processing software, but some computers don't come with that program pre-installed. This means you may have to purchase and install it prior to starting a class.

Knowing these requirements ahead of time can really help you save time and prevent stress once class begins. It's also helpful to familiarize yourself with the online platform you will be using for your classes as well as your school's website.

2. Don't overload yourself in the beginning.

If you are new to the online education scene, it's a good idea to 'start slow and grow' when it comes to enrolling in classes. In a U.S. News & World Report article, geologist and professor Ted Smith indicates that one mistake many students make is overloading themselves with online classes before they even know what to expect. This often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and it can also end up affecting their performance. Smith suggests starting out with one simple course to get a feel for things before deciding if online classes are right for you.

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3. Manage your time and stay organized.

Online classes might be handy, but they are also hard work! They require a great deal of your time and attention if you want to be successful. When you begin your classes, try to get a feel for how much time you'll need to spend on them each week - many teachers will provide you with this information - and manage this time accordingly. It's a good idea to establish a routine and stick to it if you want to get the most out of your classes. It's also helpful to purchase a planner and folders to keep track of your assignments, due dates, and other important notes.

4. Participate in class discussions.

Online classes often use discussion boards and video conferencing as ways to communicate with professors and classmates. It's so important to participate in these activities if you want to succeed! Online classes typically attract students from all walks of life and backgrounds, and you never know what you might be able to learn from your peers. Maybe someone can give you some pointers on something that has you stumped or shed a new light on a certain topic.

5. Have a quiet place devoted to online learning.

While it's nice to be able to complete your college classes at home, they won't work out work very well if you try to work on them in the middle of your kitchen during dinnertime. Make sure you have a quiet spot in your home devoted to your online classes and stick with it. Let any family members know that it's your area and to stay away during study hours. If you can't find a good place at home, consider a library or friend's house - wherever you can learn and study best.

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6. If you're unsure about something, ask!

Last but not least, try and make a point of maintaining open communication with your professors for the duration of your classes. Most online teachers know that students will have questions, so they typically try to reply to emails as quickly as possible (although some may not!). If you are having trouble with a certain concept in a class, ask your professor about it as soon as your issue comes up. While it's easy to just move on without clarifying an issue, that can lead to further confusion down the road.

By Erin Riskey
February 2017
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