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5 Tips for Acing Your Online College Courses

This post is in partnership with Online College Course Survival Guide.

Taking an online college course to save time? Ace it with these 5 tips from a current online college course instructor! Click through for the secrets.

You don’t want to get up at 5 a.m. to go to class. You don’t know how you are going to have time to attend your classes and work. You need both of those classes, but there’s only one section of each, and they are at the very same time.

Sounds like you need to think about taking an online college course. Even students who live on campus take online courses because they are convenient. You can complete work in the middle of the night. You can squeeze in “attending class” whenever your schedule allows so you can still work. And, you can take both classes, if you take one of them online.

Yes! You’ve got it all figured out now.

But do you?

You may be buying into the common myths about online courses:

  • They are an “Easy A”
  • They are self-paced
  • They save time because you don’t have to go to class

Going in with those beliefs are a sure-fire way to struggle through the whole semester. So let’s bust these myths right here and now:

Online courses are an “Easy A”: Uhhh, no. They are real courses, just like if you took them in the traditional classroom. The same assignments, textbooks, and expectations will be part of the class, whether it is in-person or online. The delivery system is the only difference.

Online courses are self-paced: Not, even. It’s true that you can usually work ahead because most or all of the class will be visible from the beginning, but you can’t fall behind. There are due dates for assignments, exams, and reading. You can’t just turn in work when you feel like it.

Online courses save time: Nope, wrong again. In fact, they often take more time than in-person classes. First, it typically takes more time to read the lecture material than it does to listen to it in class. Second, you may need to find your own supplemental material if you are having a difficult time understanding content. Third, all communication is written, not spoken. Writing takes more time than opening your mouth and letting words spill out.

Now, I don’t want to bum you out! Online courses are awesome! Truly! But they are different than in-person classes.

If you choose to take an online course, here are some tips from a college professor to you (yes, I’m an honest-to-goodness online college professor). These are practical techniques you can implement to make life in the virtual classroom easier:

1. Set up a schedule to “attend class” just as if you had to show up to a physical classroom. Just working the class in when you get a chance is a sure way to forget about assignments and exams.

2. Examine the material and assignment guidelines early in the week so that if you have a question, you can get the answer from the professor before the assignment is due.

3. Have a Plan B for technology. Technology rocks. But, it isn’t perfect. What will you do if your computer gives you the blue screen of death right when you need to start writing a paper? Know the hours and requirements for accessing technology on campus or near your house. Your professor will most likely ignore your request for an extension due to technical difficulties. Keep in mind that this extends to any software you’re using, such as your plagiarism tools. If you’re not sure what that is, this article by Quillbot can help you define plagiarism.

4. Read/watch/listen to the supplemental materials. The professor didn’t include them in the class for their health. ‘Nuff said.

5. When emailing your professor a question about an assignment, give them all they need to know so you don’t waste time emailing back and forth. The class name, section, and assignment name, along with the due date are all important to include since they probably teach multiple classes. Oh, and ask specific questions. Don’t say, “So, what’s up with the assignment for next week?” That’s not a legit question that a prof can answer.

Want to learn more about how you can avoid struggling and start succeeding in your online courses? Snag your copy of Your Online College Course Survival Guide. It’s jam-packed with 10 success strategies online students need to rock online courses, along with a checklist of actionable steps at the end of each chapter to make the techniques easy to implement. Learn more about it and then grab your copy at Online College Course Survival Guide.

By Jacqueline Myers

Jacqueline Myers
Jacqueline Myers has been improving writing skills since the 1990’s and is still hard at work, struggling to put an end to comma splices and stamp out accidental plagiarism. She is an online college English professor and a freelance writer & editor, as well as the owner & writing expert at Nitty-Gritty English, a site dedicated to providing academic writing tips to the reluctant college writer. Have questions about college writing or online courses? She’s all about answering them. Send them to her at jsm@nittygrittyenglish or post them on the Online College Course Survival Guide Facebook Page.