Staying ahead in online classes


Photo: Jordan Maurice/Iowa State

The Hixson-Lied Student Success Center allows for Iowa State student athletes to meet with mental health advisers. 

Kylee Haueter

For students taking online classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to stay motivated and not fall behind on classwork. Adriana Gonzalez-Elliott, assistant director of academic coaching and outreach at the Academic Success Center, gave tips on how to keep up in online classes.

Gonzalez-Elliott said a key part of being able to stay ahead in online classes is to establish a routine, like you would if you were going to in-person classes.

“We have heard from students that the lack of structured in-person class time makes online instruction challenging,” Gonzalez-Elliott said. “Because there is no structured time, it’s really important for students to establish a routine and break assignments and studying into smaller chunks.”

She also recommended a studying method called the Pomodoro technique.

“This technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 20 minutes in length, separated by short breaks,” Gonzalez-Elliot said. “It helps students manage distractions and keep track of time. It can also help increase motivation and accountability to complete tasks.”

There are many apps that help students practice studying using the Pomodoro technique including Be Focused – Focus Timer, Engross and Pomotodo. Some websites that can help students are and

Gonzalez-Elliott also listed some pieces of advice that her office received from undergraduate peer ambassadors.

“Shower and get ready for your day, and do your best to go through your normal morning routine,” Gonzalez-Elliott said. “Have a dedicated place to do your work — your bed might be the most comfortable, but not necessarily the most productive space for you.”

Other advice given includes setting specific goals, using designated class time for lectures, homework, studying and doing easy tasks to get into a productive mindset.

Students that are struggling with classes, whether they are online or in-person, are encouraged to utilize the services offered in the Academic Success Center.

“We offer small group tutoring, supplemental instruction and academic coaching,” Gonzalez-Elliott said. “Getting a head start in the semester and utilizing our services sooner helps students have structured study time and improve academic skills.”

Students can also apply to work at the Academic Success Center as a tutor or as a supplemental instruction leader.

Because of COVID-19, tutoring and supplemental instruction will be done on a virtual platform. Academic coaching may be done online, over the phone or in-person. Workshops hosted by the Academic Success Center may also be in-person, though every in-person event is subject to change.