How to stay on track in an online class

Have you ever taken an online class, slacked off, and then panicked at the end of semester? Read on for tips on how to avoid the pain.

Hands typing on a laptop Don't panic...but don't forget about your online course, either.

Online classes are great because they give you the freedom to do your coursework when you want, where you want. The downside of that freedom is that you alone are responsible for learning the material and reaching out when you need help. If you've found yourself in that trap, you should take note of my field-tested tips from when I took ANAT 1010.

Actually look through the syllabus

The syllabus is even more important in an online class, since it becomes your class schedule. So go through it just like you do in your traditional classes. Take note of all the assignments and exams, their weight, and their due dates. This will help you prioritize what needs to be started now, and what can wait.

I got so carried away with how relaxed and free my online course was that I almost missed the first midterm. Luckily, I had written down all the important dates in a note on my phone, so I was able to complete it just in time. When in doubt, always refer to your syllabus.

Set a reminder on your phone

When I took ANAT 1010 online, we had three assignments due every week, one for every day of lecture. I found them easy to do so I completed them all on Monday evening, and by Wednesday I would forget I was even taking the class. Having that reminder on my phone every Sunday helped jog my memory that I had an online class with actual work to complete every week.

After almost missing the first midterm, I also set alarms for a day before every test so I wouldn’t go through that stress again.

Use the professor’s contact information

Just because you don’t see your professor in person two or three times a week doesn't mean they don’t exist. Really, they're only an email away. Most professors still hold office hours, and even if they don’t, they likely wouldn’t mind setting up a time to help you out. They're there to help you learn and, in my experience, they love having students reach out with questions.

It shows you’re still engaged and excited about the material. It’s probably also nice for them to see their students, since online classes can make everyone feel disconnected from each other.

Dedicate time to go through the material

I used to fall into the trap of using the lecture slides to complete the assignments without ever actually comprehending the material. Once the midterms rolled around, I found myself scrambling to study something so I would do well. Setting aside even half an hour each day to do more than just glance at the slides will help you in the long run.

You’ll actually reduce your stress levels for the midterms and final, since the material will already be familiar to you. Just like in any in-person class, you need to carve out some study time to be successful.