With so many institutions of higher education cancelling classes and moving them all online due to COVID-19, there is a level of uncertainty among students who have either A. never taken a course online or B. have never taken a full load of courses online. In either case, it is important to still be successful despite what the world is facing and the tough decisions institutions are making.
Failing to be successful in your online courses can result in a lower GPA which can lead to many things; academic probation or suspension, dismissal from student organizations for falling below eligibility criteria, and even loss of federal financial aid. Talk with your Financial Aid Office about SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress) if you haven’t heard of it before.
As a higher education professional who completed a masters degree online and works with students every day, I wanted to share some words of wisdom in the hopes it will help someone be successful this semester (and in the future with online courses).
I believe there are 3 components to being successful in online coursework:
Discipline | Focus | Communication
Without the daily structure of getting up and going to class, some students will slip into a routine of staying up late, laying around on the couch all day binge watching Netflix, spending too much time on social media, etc. Essentially wasting the day away. How to stay disciplined:
•Every week day should have a routine, as if face-to-face class was never cancelled. You had an 8am class? Then get up and get dressed and at 8am start working on that class. Work on that class content for the length you would be sitting in class. Then move onto your next class. Have a 2 hour break between classes at lunch time? Great, that gives you 2 hours to do what you would have normally done on campus. Grab lunch and then go to the library? Do it!
•Know how and where you work best. For me, sitting on my couch in a quiet house was the perfect place to read, study, and work on assignments, but for some of my friends, they had to get out of the house. Find that perfect setting for yourself.
Some may argue that focus and discipline are the same thing. I disagree! Focus is more granular. Keep reading to see what I mean…
•Study your syllabi, know it backwards and forwards. Understand the responsibilities, assignments, and expectations for success.
•Put important due dates in an easy place for you to reference them. That could be an old school paper planner, your Outlook calendar, or a personal calendar on your phone.
•Once you know what is expected of you in the courses and you’ve come up with a plan to store important dates, you will want to begin breaking down the larger projects into more management short-term goals. Create a project timeline and focus on those milestone dates. Have a research paper as a final? Must have 10 pieces of literature as part of the paper’s lit review? Start there! Once you have 10 solid works to review (no, Wikipedia does not count as credible), move onto the next task. Slowly you will produce the final product on or before (would be better!) the due date. Bonus tip: the Purdue Owl is a lifesaver for APA
A key component of success is communication. Especially in online courses since communication with your professors and peers will be radically different than in a face-to-face course.
•After knowing your syllabus backwards and forwards, ask the professor for clarification if you don’t understand something. This goes for during the semester too. Read How to Email Your Professor for pointers.
•Communicate with your classmates. They’ll likely be experiencing the same stress as you.
•Discussion boards! Most online courses include some type of discussion board and have requirements (and deadlines) associated. For example, you may have to post a minimum of 3 times; 1 as your original post answering the prompt and 2 additional times in response to classmates. All of which may have deadlines. Discussion boards usually act as “class participation” and failing to do them could mean an impact on your grade.
•Set up study groups face-to-face if you live near classmates or schedule regular Skype meetings regardless of if there is a group project or not. Again, these individuals are experiencing the same or similar hardships with their new classroom environment.
•Find and communicate with academic resources on campus (tutoring, writing center, etc.). They’ll likely have a way of delivering their services in an online format.
At the end of the day, view this as a learning opportunity. With these 3 components you can be successful in online courses. Hey, one day you may be in an interview and they ask you about a challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it. You can talk about this experience and what you did to be successful. You’re welcome in advance for the answer to that interview question 😉
Until next post…xoxo Becca
It’s that time of year again, the freshmen are moving into the dorms this weekend and our apartment complex is as busy as a beehive with the new residents moving in as well.
Fall is my favorite time of year (besides the amazing weather and cute clothes) as a higher education professional. Fall is when your hard work is realized and the excitement of a new entering class is everywhere. This post is something I have wanted to write for a long time, so here it is (finally).
I read something this week in reference to moving in that said, “When your mom wants to unpack all of your clothes and make your bed – Let her. When your dad wants to introduce himself to all the people on your floor – Let him. When they want to take pictures of every move you make this weekend – Let them…As you start the new chapter of your life, they are also starting the new chapter of theirs…So let them treat you like their ‘baby’ one last time.”
This speaks volumes because, at the end of the day, they are going to be your biggest support system so don’t cut them out. Lean on them when you are struggling. No one expects you to know how to “adult” in the first year of entering this new stage in life. I can’t tell you how many times I called home from the grocery store to ask what product my mom recommended. Whether it was laundry detergent or what soup when I was sick! I also asked a few mom-looking ladies in the grocery store a couple of times.
Your university will likely have an activity fair or some way for you to learn about the organizations and activities/events you can participate in. Do that! Find out where you fit in. See if your major has organizations dedicated to students seeking the same/similar degree as you. This helps in picking classes/professors, finding study groups, learning about internship opportunities, etc.
This is one of the things I wish I learned earlier on. Do you study better in a group or alone? By using flashcards, reviewing notes, or reading the text? Essentially, be aware of how you study and stick to what makes you successful.
This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many students skip class and then wonder why they failed or weren’t successful. Showing up is half of it!
When you move in make sure to introduce yourself to other students in your dorm. If you are in an all freshmen dorm then they are going through the exact same life change as you. Same goes for your classmates. You don’t have to be best friends with all of them, but you would be surprised who you will meet.
Time management! Determine how you are going to keep track of your assignments, exams, extra-curricular activities, work schedule, etc. Whether this is plugging it into a calendar on your phone or writing it down in a planner the old fashioned way, time management skills are key to success in college and life.
Do not be afraid of them! Most professors are willing to answer questions after class or during office hours. Just make sure you have quality questions.
Much like learning about activities on campus, learn about the services your university has to offer. There may be free tutoring, a place that helps edit your papers, a health center for when you are sick, or counseling services if you are struggling mentally or emotionally. It is ok to admit when you need help. These services are here for you because we all know college is a transition period and it’s challenging.
Going to a party or a bar? Know who you are going with and make a plan for coming home safe. There is nothing more terrifying than finding yourself in a bad situation. Have a good time, but make smart choices.
I mean physically active. We have all heard of the freshmen fifteen (hence the title of the post), but getting involved in intramural sports, going to the rec, or participating in group fitness classes will improve your overall wellness and cognitive function. But please don’t go to the gym for social hour!
Your university offers advising, but take charge of your own degree plan. Understand how to read your degree plan and course sequence. Many students let someone else make these decisions for them, but those individuals make mistakes too. You don’t want to find yourself in the last semester missing one 3-hour course that will keep you from graduating.
Secondly, know what classes you have taken. For example, I was enrolled in an accounting class my sophomore year and during my advising session the advisor listed that class as one to take the following semester. If I didn’t know I was in that class or had already completed it then I could have easily enrolled and retaken a course I didn’t need to.
Find a job! Not only does this offer some income, but it gives you experience to add to your resume. If you can find a job on campus (especially one that aligns with your future career), even better! Campus jobs are great and give you the opportunity to know faculty and/or staff. Work hard and they’ll be your biggest supports when you need references or letters of recommendation.
Again, a no-brainer, but procrastination is real. Just don’t let it get the best of you. If a large project seems overwhelming, work on it a little at a time. Your syllabus tells you what is coming up and getting a head start is important.
Try things outside your comfort zone. Go to a cultural event, visit an art gallery or theater production on campus, consider studying abroad. You learn just as much outside the classroom through experiences.
Most importantly, don’t quit. Earning a college degree does not come easy, regardless of how others make it look on social media. Enjoy the time you have, the memories you will make, and keep marching forward.
I hope you find this list helpful and you take some of the advice to become successful. College really can be the best time of your life so start off on the right foot. Until next post…xoxo Becca