Do you find yourself suddenly taking classes online? There are similarities and differences to conventional, face-to-face courses. Read on for a few tips to make the most of your online coursework.

What’s the same? You’ll have a head teacher to cover the material. There will be assigned readings, quizzes/tests and writing. You may have specific times where attendance is required, or group work where you collaborate with other students.

What’s different about taking classes online? Well, for starters, you’re online and so are all your peers. If you have questions or thoughts, you will need to write it all out. Side conversations with classmates and teachers that may have occurred before or after class will need to be online as well. You are often expected to do more independently.

9 Tips for Taking Classes Online

1. Communicate well and professionally. Writing will be your primary form of communication. Remember much can be misunderstood when using only the written word, so try to be clear, concise and thorough. This goes for speaking with classmates and communicating with the teacher.

2. Be disciplined. There are plenty of potential distractions for the online learner, as you can be just about anywhere with strong internet. Set rules for yourself that will keep you focused and on track. Some folks prefer setting a daily schedule, or a consistent workplace, while others may limit time on email, social media or other things until their work is done. Don’t forget to reward yourself for a job well-done.

3. Speak up. The teacher may not be able to see your visual cues. (teachers often look out to the classroom to see facial expressions and understand if folks are ‘getting it’) In the absence of this, you need to speak up if something isn’t making sense or if you need help with a particular concept.

4. Online classes can take anywhere from 5-15 hours per week. Be sure to budget that into your week.

5. Think critically. You are going to be asked to demonstrate decision making based on the information you’ve been presented.

6. Think before you write/speak. This tip should be applied in life as well. Compose your thoughts in a professional and well-presented manner. Proofread before you press send, and think of the recipient. Will they fully understand what you are trying to get across? *Pro Tip: Don’t write when emotional, let yourself cool down before composing an email. If you are still upset, try to take it to a phone call or face-to-face interaction, rather than an email where things can more easily be misunderstood.

7. At the beginning of the course, create a master calendar with all assignments and be sure to allow enough time for all projects.

8. Make sure you have access to strong internet and reliable technology for the course.

9. Set Breaks. Don’t forget to take a little time away from the screen. These can be brief exercise breaks, a quick walk or playing with a pet.

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