Tips to Succeed in Online Courses

Student at laptop

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Southern New Hampshire University, a leader in online education serving more than 135,000 students virtually.

College is a transition, regardless of what environment you’re coming from, and especially so when you suddenly find yourself online navigating coursework in a virtual classroom. Whether you’re new to college or amid your degree program, some fundamental challenges may come your way and the better prepared you are, the less apt they are to impede your success.

A big challenge is time. We all have 24 hours each day, but the way we spend those hours differs from person to person. Your responsibilities are unique to you. Perhaps you’re juggling a job, college courses, a family, personal relationships, and more. There may be times you feel overwhelmed and wondering if you can get through this class, let alone finish your degree. If that’s where you’re at, you’ll want to introduce some time management into your life.

Time management is more than a buzzword; it’s a way to plan your time well to meet your goals. You can assess what needs to get done and realistically consider the time you’ll need to do it. Make a list and identify the ‘must-do’ tasks and the ‘would-like-to-do’ vs. some of the activities that take up a lot of your time that might not be completely necessary. Map out your week in a way that makes sense to get the most important things done and know that this schedule will change week to week based on what you prioritize each week. Understanding a sacrifice this week may result in less stress next week — and more free time to enjoy — can be a powerful motivator.

You’ll also want to make the most out of your study time. To study effectively, there are a few things to consider: where and how you study best, what resources are available to help you, and the habits you have developed while studying. If you’re struggling to stay focused, consider your location and whether you’re doing what you can to be distraction-free. It may be a case of putting your phone on silent (perhaps in another room), having the supplies you need in your workspace, and using the techniques that allow you to dig in, review and complete your assignments.

Taking notes can be challenging if you haven’t found a method that works well for you. You may think about note-taking as simply jotting down important points. Still, there are different styles, ranging from outlines to flowcharts and mind-maps that can help you organize information and thoughts that will be easier to understand and remember. You may have to experiment with a few different techniques or tools to find what’s most effective for you, but having a consistent go-to method is sure to aid your success from course to course.

Being successful comes from being prepared. It’s understanding your responsibilities and assessing the time you need for each, and creating a schedule that allows you to manage what you need to do — recognizing there will be times that the best-laid plans will have to pivot.

Taking a good look at how and where you study best and doing what you can to replicate that experience whenever you can, positions you to do well in school. Exploring and landing upon a note-taking method that maximizes your learning will make coursework a lot simpler to consume and comprehend.

And remember, if you find yourself struggling, be sure to communicate with the people who are fostering your success — your academic advisor and faculty — who can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on.

Learn about Southern New Hampshire University’s partnership with Phi Theta Kappa and the savings available to you as a PTK member.

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