Tips for online classes

In the past, people took online classes to save money on education or completed a degree online while working full time or on maternity or paternity leave. However, right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes have pivoted to being done online or virtually via video conferencing. Being part of online classes offer some challenges compared to in-person classes. If you do not have a plan for these challenges, your performance could suffer. Here are some tips and strategies for you to be successful in your online learning.

online classes

Motivation is what sets you in motion,

habit is what keeps you going

Taking Online Classes

Online classes should be treated as an in-person class. While video conferencing has made it easier to host live virtual classes, most online classes are still taught asynchronously. Your college or university professors may post a video or slides each week and you may need to turn in assignments or post a weekly discussion. It can be easy to forget you are in a class, fall into bad habits and get behind on your assignments.

Even if the online class does not meet at a specific time, set a time in your calendar for when you “will go to class”. Have a routine just as if you are going to in person classes. You must “show up” for yourself if you want to get real value of your online classes and have a successful education.

Virtual Study Group

This tip may help for people who are used to studying with a group of people. You still have classmates in an online class but it isn’t the same connection you’d get sitting next to someone. You do need to be creative in how you would get online classmates interested in joining your study group.

You can use the online discussion forum, post and ask any students if they want to study together over video conferencing. Once you have found some people, try to meet with them at the same time each week. This way, you’ll get the benefits of studying as a group and have accountability partners. If you can’t find study partners from your actual online courses, you can use apps like Focusmate or StudyWithMe Live. These apps lets you find study partners with whom you can make a study space virtually over a video or voice call. Even though the person may not be studying the same class material as you, knowing another person is working on something in the “same room” will help you stay focused.

Use Resources Provided

Academic success if more than just attending class and reading the class material. To master it, you need to take advantage of all resources available to you. If your college or university professor offer virtual office hours, attend them! Bring questions you have about homework, lectures, papers and exams! If your college or university professor gives more resources to practice and understand the online class material, use them since you should be able to do them without leaving your house!


It is helpful to hold yourself accountable for online learning. You can set goals at the start of the semester and check in with yourself weekly. In in person classes, you may get verbal or visual cues of an due date for an assignment. Without the professor actively reminding you, it’s up to you to ensure you have allowed enough time to completely the work so you are not starting the assignment the day before it’s due date. If you are having trouble holding yourself accountable, pair with classmates or enlist the help of your family, friends, partner to check in with you for accountability.

Take Notes

Just because you are taking online courses, does not mean you do not take notes. Taking notes during online classes, help you complete homework or study for an exam. Taking notes helps you engage with the material and put it into your own words. This helps with your understanding and retention.

Dedicated Study Space

Have a specific study space for when you study and disconnect from the space when you’re not studying helps a a lot. The study space can be anywhere that helps you focus. It could be the desk in your room, a spot at the kitchen table, or even at the balcony.

Please do avoid choosing a space where you can be too comfortable and eliminate distractions. Do not study in your bed or next to your gaming system. Find a place that symbolizes “it’s time to focus and stay on track”. This tip also extends if you’re trying to study for multiple online courses; pick a different area of study space for each online class.

Completing your work regularly on your dedicated study space helps you establish a routine. Experiment with different areas of your home or room to see which area will work best for you. Whatever area you pick, ensure there is high speed internet access so you can watch your online classes’ lectures smoothly. Make sure you do these things when setting up your study space:

  • have a high speed internet connection
  • have required books, materials, and software for the online classes
  • have headphones for listening to lectures (important for shared spaces)
  • have coffee or tea or whatever you need to be successful in completing readings, assignments, studying, etc.

Sneaky Deadlines

In an in person class, the college or university professor may remind you of upcoming due dates or exams. With online class, you may not get these reminders or the reminders are ignored. You need to be diligent in monitoring these deadlines.

At the start of the semester, read through the syllabus and find all deadlines for assignments and exams. Input this information into your calendar, and refer back to it regularly. Pay attention to changes to deadlines so you can update your calendar appropriately.

Check Email Regularly

With online courses, it is important you keep up with messages from your college of university professor. This way, you are updated on any changes for due dates, new expectations for papers, updated study resources and announcement for office hours.

Depending on the college or university or how you’re accessing the online classes, there may be a portal for your online courses to check in addition or instead of email. Whatever method(s) the professor uses to communicate to their students, make sure you check it regularly. One way to remember this task is to make a recurring task on your to-do list called “Check messages from my college or university professor”.

Eliminate Distractions

It is easy to get distracted with the constant notifications from social media, your phone, roommates, video games or anything that you’d rather be doing. Do what you can to eliminate the distractions or at least minimize them. You can try to find a study space where you are away from distractions. For papers, you can use the Pomodoro Technique. Set timer for 25 minutes, work on one thing only, then take breaks accordingly before repeating the process until the work is done.

The best online students know how to decreases these distractions and set aside time to focus. You will need to find a strategy that works for you. Some may find listening to music will help tune out noises from home life while the next student may need to work at a local coffee shop or library to eliminate the urge to multitask at home. It is a good idea to turn off your cellphone to avoid losing focus every time a social media or text message notification pops up. If you’re still having trouble resisting temptation, try downloading a website blocker like Cold Turkey, Freedom or Chrome Extensions Stay Focused which can limit time spent on certain sites or block them altogether while it’s time for you to study. Another way is to keep yourself accountable with a productivity planner. 

study room

Study Room Online

Study With Me videos are a popular trend that utilizes YouTube or other streaming platforms as a study tool to help keep students motivated. These videos involve someone sharing themselves studying or working, often in real-time, resulting in Study With Me videos or livestreams that are sometimes hours long. The sense of companionship provided by these videos is especially relevant as many workplaces and schools continue to be remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As public spaces remain closed or operate with limited capacity, many students have evolved their method of study and have turned to video-sharing platforms for motivation, as well as an environment which mimics, for example, a library or a study session with a friend at a coffee shop. Many of these Study With Me videos utilize the Pomodoro Method, encouraging viewers to follow the video creator in real-time during their intervals of productive work and breaks.


To Avoid Procrastination

Make Studying Enjoyable

This could be many ideas as everyone in life finds enjoyable specific to them. Maybe it is playing music that makes you happy and alert or music that is mellow. Another person may need a lot of coffee or quiet room away from family and the computer to study, so cancelling headphone can do the trick. The time spent on your academic life is supposed to be fun. It can be an exciting and daunting time. Learn about topics that are of interest to you. Enjoy the process, the opportunities and the unique experience studying online can provide for you.

It is also important take a break every now and then. This can help with brain fog and the strain on your body from sitting for long periods of time. It helps to take a breather, use the washroom, grab a snack or even take a quick walk outside.

Health is Wealth

Just as taking breaks is one of the tips from the strategies we listed, STAYING HEALTHY should be the most important one. Your brain can works its fullest potential if your body is healthy. This mean having breaks in your study schedule. Other aspects are eating well, staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, spending time with your family and friends to avoid eye strain from computer monitor and the many ergonomic ailments that exist now with technology. Remember, if you get sick, it could take lots of valuable time away from your studies!

Avoid Overscheduling

It’s good to assume that each online class will need the same amount of time as an in-person class. Even if this is not the case, it will prevent you from over scheduling yourself and getting overwhelmed.

Get Help and Participate Actively

If you’re falling behind, it’s important to seek help from your college or university professor. Taking online classes requires the student to take more initiative in seeking extra resources and help than the traditional classroom. If you are not understanding the class material or falling behind on assignments, talk to your college or university professor right away. The longer you wait, the more behind you get and this can affect how you perform on midterms or finals. If help from your professor is not sufficient, look into additional resources from the campus’ library or online program such as: Khan Academy, Crash Course and Chegg Study.

By participating in the online classes’ online forum, it helps you ensure you completed your readings and that you comprehend the material. You can read what others students and your professor are saying and if you do not understand, ask questions for clarification. Make sure you are checking often as you can since you can check anywhere that has internet connection. If you feel like you’re lost of falling behind, do not hesitate to contact your professor for help and ask questions! Hopefully by being a proactive student in your classes, your professor may be understanding if you need an extra couple days to complete an assignment.

Expand Your Network

Online classes may sometimes make you feel isolated but online courses are built around the concept of collaboration with professors encouraging that many students work together to complete assignments and take advantage of the online discussions. It is important to build relationships and connections with other students and engaging on the online discussion boards. Your peers can be a valuable resource when studying for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. Do not be afraid to turn to them to make a virtual study group.

What you need to Know

Before Taking Online Classes

What you need to Know Before Taking Online Classes

If you’ve never taken an online learning class before, you might not know how they are different from on-campus courses. Are they harder? What is the best way to stay on track? Here are 7 things you should know before online classes.

1. Online classes are not the “easy route”

The simple answer is no. Taking online classes over traditional classroom courses is not the easy fix for your education. It is true that it offers more flexibility but it doesn’t change the amount of work you put in. The flexibility of online learning may be helpful to many students who are busy but the freedom can create pressure and distractions. It is up to the student to keep yourself on track. Many online courses have updated their syllabus from requiring more analysis and synthesis from their students – so you are not able to answer from a quick Google search.

2. Familiarize yourself with the technology

Your online classes will likely be accessed through an online platform from a computer, tablet or smart phone. Online class veterans recommend taking some time to be familiar with the platform and use any orientation materials before the first class. Having reliable internet connection and operating system is also important to staying on top of your work. You will want to make sure that the school has resources to support students learning online.

3. You can make it or break it with time management.

It is the students’ responsibility and initiative to keep up with the work during the duration of the online class. It can be very easy to let assignments slide and miss due dates because of the flexibility that come with online learning.

Procrastination can affect your grades negatively. It is important to stay organized, follow a schedule as it can be challenging to catch once you fall behind! Be sure to give yourself extra time to complete assignments as this is an error students do to themselves.

4. Group projects still exists

Professors may still assign students group projects. This could be easier in traditional classrooms but more tricky with online learning. There are many collaborative tools and video conferencing apps to make it easier to work in groups now.

5. Make an effort in making connections

One benefit to in person classes is that it puts you in contact with many people. These connections can turn into friendships, mentorship and networking. It has been encouraged that students try to get to know some of your online classmates or your professors. You can reach out and discuss assignments or meet in person with classmates to study as a group or attend office hours.

6. The missing piece?

Traditional schools can be stressful too… the commute, finding a seat, the endless distractions being in a classroom. With classes online, you are in your own space, safe from germs and stress of driving or commuting on public transit. It can save students money and time. The education can be effective and efficient because you can interact with professors how you prefer: whether that be a private message or email or speaking aloud if lectures are LIVE.

7. You may do better in online learning…?

It’s not guaranteed but there is potential for online classes works for you! You need to be organized to keep track of deadlines, don’t procrastinate you might enjoy the amount of control you have over how to finish it all. This type of learning is great if you feel lost in a crowded classroom. Some classes give you the ability to pause and take notes or even re-watch parts you didn’t really understand. You can also reach out to your professors for clarifications on lectures, reading materials or an assignment!