Succeeding in Online Classes

Published: Tues., Sept. 8, 2020

This fall you may find yourself taking making of your classes virtually, at least in part. If you have never taken online classes before this can be a challenging transition.

Create a Space for Your Schoolwork

You may not be able to have a separate room for your schoolwork, however you may find it helpful to set up a space with few distractions, even if it’s just the corner of your bedroom or living room. This will allow you to focus on your schoolwork better. If there are specific distractions you know are problematic for you (for example, sitting in front of the TV), it is important to find places where you can minimize some of those distractions. Similarly, you may want to close or minimize windows on your computer when you are attending Zoom sessions to avoid getting distracted by things not related to class during those meetings. Make sure the supplies you need are nearby, whether that is textbooks, headphones, notepads, or something else.

Make a Schedule

When taking multiple online classes may be more difficult to manage assignments and tasks than if you were attending class in-person. Make a calendar of due dates, class meetings, and times you plan to work on projects. It may feel like you have more freedom in your schedule now, but that just means that it is now up to you organize your time to a degree you may not have had to before. Set reminders so that you don’t miss deadlines. Creating a block schedule may help you manage your time better. Part of the way through the semester you may also want to pause and re-evaluate. Are you overestimating or underestimating the time needed for particular tasks? If so, you will want to change the amount of time you allocate to those tasks.

Communicate regularly

Emails and chats with your instructors or classmates will be essential to your success. You may not be able to just talk with them after class or drop by their offices so communication may take more effort. If you find yourself getting confused, you have to take the initiative to ask the instructor for help. Remember they may be able to tell as readily if students are confused, so they need this feedback too!


Make sure you actively participate in your class. This means participating in discussion boards and completing class activities when you meet virtually. You get out of a class what you put into it. If you are not actively participating or engaging with the material, you cannot expect to just learn the information by osmosis. It can be easier in online classes to not participate as much, but students who participate in class and actively engage with the material are more likely to learn the material.

Hold Yourself (and Your Peers) Accountable

Staying on track means making sure you are completing work in a timely manner. Be honest with yourself. If you are not completing work on time, you need to hold yourself accountable for doing so. If you have friends in the class you could also form peer groups to keep each other on track and help answer each other’s questions as you go along.

Be Patient with Yourself

This semester will be different. Classes may not always go as smoothly as they have in the past—both for the instructors and for students. Email replies may take a little longer or you might not learn things as quickly as you might for classes in person. Be patient with yourself and those around you. Seek help with you need it. This is new for all of us. Hang in there—you can do it!