Tibbs: Tips for online courses this fall

Columnist Ashley Tibbs offers a variety of suggestions concerning online classes. 

Ashley Tibbs

This fall, a greater portion of Iowa State’s courses will be offered either entirely online or in a blended format that includes face-to-face instruction as well as online activities or homework. Because of this, it’s important for everyone to know how to succeed in an online course.

If you’ve never taken an online or a hybrid course before, it can be pretty hard to adjust at first. It might seem overwhelming, but here are several tips that help some people be successful in an online environment.

Work on the course at the same time every day. This can help you focus on that subject. Set aside chunks of time each day to maintain a structured routine. 

Stay disciplined. Treat your online course like an in-person course, which means setting aside a chunk of time and “showing up” to do work. It can be much easier to fall behind in a completely online course, or even in a hybrid course. 

Stay organized and be prepared. Read the course calendar and syllabus carefully and write down what needs to be completed on a daily and weekly basis. It’s also important to check Canvas more than once a day because your professor may change or update pages. 

Stay off your phone and stop watching Netflix. It’s important to eliminate distractions, especially in an online course. Without face-to-face learning every day, it can be easy to become distracted while you’re working. There are many different apps that can help you focus and there are also extensions you can download that block time-wasting websites for certain periods of time. 

Take notes. Your professor might provide PowerPoint slides or prepared notes, but the act of writing it down again — or even typing it out — can help you retain the information better. It can be hard to memorize information in an online course and this is one way to help.

Take breaks when working. Try to rest your eyes by looking away from the screen at least once every hour, but preferably sooner. 

Have integrity. Academic misconduct applies even to online courses. Do your own work and be proud of what you’ve done. 

Overall, stay flexible! Our lives are constantly changing and we all need to learn how to be OK with that. Even our in-person courses are going to look a lot different this year, so it’s very important to go with the flow. Connect with your peers and your professors, and keep yourself happy and healthy.