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
At some point in your college career you will have to email your professor(s). There is certainly a right way and a wrong way. Some students might think this is a ridiculous blog post, but I’m tell you, as a higher education professional I have seen some pretty awful emails from students. Email etiquette is a thing! Here is an example of a bad email to a professor…
To: Science Woman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
can u tell me how to do number 4 on the problem set. i no u went over it in class but i have had a VERY LONG week lol tests ha ha ha and i lost my notes. pleeease help
The question is, is this how you will be emailing your supervisor one day? I would hope not! Let’s talk about the right way to email your professor.
Consult Your Syllabus: The syllabus acts as a contract between the professor and his/her students. It provides more information than a semester calendar and attendance policy. Many questions can be answered by reading the syllabus. It also contains the professor’s contact information.
University Email Address: It’s important to use your university issued email address. The university provides you an email for more reasons than getting student pricing for Amazon Prime. Bonus tip: Don’t use your university email address to sign up for store’s emails. Your inbox will quickly get bogged down with marketing emails and you might miss something important from the university or your professor(s).
Subject Line: Start your email with a clear subject line. Perhaps what class you are enrolled in, followed by the reason for emailing. i.e. ENGL 1301.01: Homework Assignment 15
Greeting: Emails should have the structure of a letter; a greeting, the body of the letter in paragraph form, and a closing with signature line. The lack of a formal greeting or the casual “hey” will not earn your points. Begin your email with Dear Dr. __, or Dear Professor __,. Consider their education and position before omitting a greeting!
Get to the Point: To begin, identify yourself and what class you are referring to. Construct a brief email containing only the necessary details. Professors are very busy and don’t have time to read through paragraphs of unnecessary information. Lastly, clearly state the intent of your email and what you are seeking. This helps the professor easily identify what it is you need.
Closing: It is wise to thank a professor for his/her time. A closing like, “Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.” or “Thank you for your assistance.” are both good examples of a closing. Remember to also use “Sincerely” “Best regards” or other formal closing before your email signature.
Email Signature: Signing your email, like you would a letter, is also crucial. It gives you one more opportunity to identify yourself and how to be reached. Your full name, student ID number, and an email address are a good place to start. Many students include their various officer positions in student organizations, but this is extra fluff that is irrelevant to emailing a professor. Unless of course you’re communicating something about your student org.
There you have it, the most effective way to email your professor. These same principles can be applied to emailing university staff as well. If you take nothing else away, identifying yourself (with name and student ID), being brief, and being formal are key!