11 Study Tips for Success in Online Classes

Study Tips for Online Classes

Does studying from the comfort of your own home sound like a dream come true? For many students, the answer is a resounding yes. After all, online classes allow you to take courses from universities around without setting foot on campus. What’s more, online classes give you the flexibility to adapt your studies to your schedule.

While online classes are convenient, they come with unique challenges. Self-motivation and organization are essential to succeed in online courses. With the right skills and attitude, you can make online classes work for you.

Follow the study tips in this article to set yourself up for success in your online courses.

1. Understand Course Requirements

Before getting started with an online class, it’s important to understand the course requirements. Understanding the course requirements will allow you to effectively map out a study plan, enabling you to prepare for your classes successfully.

Most college courses have a syllabus that outlines what the professor expects from students during the semester. Study the syllabus carefully and be sure you understand what you need to do to pass the class.

If you need special hardware, such as a webcam, be sure to purchase it before classes begin. Given the proliferation of video conferencing apps, your classes may be held in real-time. Be sure to confirm any attendance requirements before the class starts.

Treat online classes the same way you would treat an in-person class. Making a point to show up to your online classes daily will help ensure your online studies go well.

2. Establish a Routine

Establishing a routine for your online studies will help you stay motivated and productive. Using a calendar is a great way to stay on task. There are many calendars online that will allow you to input your schedule and send you reminders when assignments are due.

Use your calendar to schedule time with family and friends while maintaining your study schedule. If you work full-time, you may have trouble studying on weekdays. That’s fine as long as you commit to studying on the weekends.

The most important thing is to commit to a study routine, whether during the week or on the weekends. Online classes move quickly, and it’s easy to think you can get the work done later.

Don’t make this mistake. Commit to studying every week, so you can absorb the material as the class progresses. Getting in the habit of studying will help you succeed in your online courses.

3. Develop Goals Using the SMART Technique

Setting goals is an excellent way to keep you focused and on task. Online classes often lack the structure of in-person classes, so developing goals will help you add structure to your studies.
The SMART technique is an effective way to organize your online studies. SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific (significant, sensible, simple)
  • Measurable (motivational, meaningful)
  • Achievable (attainable, agreed)
  • Relevant (results-based, reasonable, realistic)
  • Time-bound (time-limited, time-based)

Writing your goals using the SMART technique will help you stay on track with your studies. You want to be sure your goals are specific and time-bound, so you’ll know when you achieve them. For example, I will get at least a B on the history exam next week is a goal that follows the SMART technique.

A SMART goal is much easier to achieve than a broad goal such as, “I will get a good job in the future.” Using the SMART technique will give you the clarity, motivation, and focus to succeed in your online classes.

4. Manage Your Time Wisely

Time management is a crucial aspect of succeeding in online classes. Many people are drawn to online classes because it offers them the flexibility of creating their own schedule. This freedom can also be a significant drawback if you don’t have good time management skills.

If you don’t manage your time wisely, you may end up pulling all-nighters cramming for an exam or turning in below-average assignments. How you plan your study schedule will depend on your work hours, personality, and learning style. However, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of success.

Check the class syllabus at the beginning of the semester and highlight major assignments and exams. Put these on your calendar and check it regularly to know what to expect as the course progresses.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of following a routine. Be sure you stick to your routine throughout the semester by designating specific hours to study, read, watch lectures, complete assignments, and participate in online forums.
Regularly check in on your progress throughout the semester to make sure you’re using your time effectively.

5. Have a Dedicated Study Space

Set up a dedicated learning space free from distractions where you can do all of the work related to your online classes. Sometimes it’s impossible to be picky about our study spaces. If you live in a house full of family or roommates, this may be a difficult task. However, try to make the best of whatever space you have available.

Since your brain associates sleep and relaxation with your bed, try not to set up your workspace there. If you try to study in your bed, you may find your mind wandering and have trouble concentrating. A desk or table with a chair is the ideal study space for keeping your mind on your schoolwork.

Try to set up your study space in an area with a strong WiFi connection. If there’s no quiet place at your home, consider going to a library or local coffee shop. We all have different learning styles, so it’s important to find what works best for you. Having a dedicated study space will help keep you organized.

6. Get Organized

Organization isn’t simply making sure you keep your house tidy. Being well-organized can ensure your online studies are successful. Keeping your study space organized will help you focus and be productive.

Keeping your online class materials organized will help you keep track of everything you need for your classes. If you’re disorganized, you may waste 30 minutes looking for a class document. If you need to take notes in a class but don’t have a pen, you may miss some critical information. Or you may have to waste time rewatching the class.

A cluttered study space makes it difficult to focus on the task at hand. You may find yourself easily distracted or staring at random things instead of focusing on your work. Getting organized is an easy way to maximize your online learning.

7. Join an Online Study Group

There’s a good chance your online class will have an online study group. If not, consider creating a study group yourself. Working in groups or with a partner will help you get a different perspective on concepts you’re having a hard time understanding.

Working in a group will also help keep you motivated throughout the semester. You can share your notes with group members and encourage each other throughout the class. Study groups are a great place to share ideas and get alternative opinions on the topics you’re covering in class.

Be sure to actively participate in group activities and online suggestions, recommend study tips, and engage your peers. If you prefer smaller groups, recruit two or three people from your class to meet with you virtually. Agree to meet up once a week to check in on assignments and help each other out with any challenges you may be facing.

8. Ask For Help

Although you’re not taking classes in person, your professors are still there to help you. If you’re struggling to understand something in your online course, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Send your professor an email if you need them to clarify something.

Online classes provide you with a lot of support, and frequently, outstanding professors are waiting to help you. Don’t procrastinate and let yourself fall behind. You don’t want to have a list of unanswered questions as finals approach. Ask questions as soon as they come up.

Most online courses are designed to build off the knowledge you’ve learned the previous week. If you don’t understand week one’s topic, you will have more difficulty understanding week 2. If you don’t understand, it’s better to ask instead of hoping everything will click. Not asking may hurt your grades and your chances of passing the class.

9. Develop a Study Plan

Having a study plan is essential to keep yourself on track during online classes. Once you make a study plan, commit to sticking to it. A study plan will help keep you organized and prevent you from missing assignments, critical due dates, etc.

At the beginning of the semester, set aside some time to plan your readings and assignments. You may have to deviate from your plan from time to time, but having it will allow you to visualize what you need to do. Having a plan makes it more challenging to procrastinate and ignore what needs to be done.

A study plan could be as simple as committing to study half an hour a day. Alternatively, you could get into more detail and assign a day to each class. Having everything written down will help you hold yourself accountable. Try to commit to following your plan at least 90% of the time.

10. Eliminate Distractions

You won’t make much progress with your online studies if you allow yourself to get distracted. Distractions can make it difficult to focus and significantly decrease your productivity. When it’s time to study, turn your phone off or put it in airplane mode. You don’t want Twitter and TikTok notifications distracting you from important assignments.

It’s hard to regain focus when you allow something to distract you. You may say you’ll only check social media or chat with your friend for a couple of minutes, but it’s really easy for time to slip away when we’re distracted.

Social media isn’t the only distraction; you may be tempted to tackle the pile of dishes in your sink if you let yourself become distracted while studying. Your personality and living situation will play a big role in how challenging these distractions become.

You may need to get out of the house to study successfully. Others may need to listen to music to drown out any background noise. One thing is certain; the best online learners know how to deal with distractions effectively. Over time, you’ll learn what works best for you.

11. Use the Pomodoro Method

If you need an effective way to manage your time while studying, consider using the Pomodoro Method. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. Francesco Cirillo came up with the Pomodoro method as a college student in the 1980s. He used his tomato-shaped kitchen timer to time his tasks. This technique has helped him and thousands of others stay on top of their work.

The Pomodoro method is simple. You work in 25-minute bursts, then take a break for 5 minutes. During those 25-minutes, you focus on what you’re doing without doing anything else. During the 5 minute break, you’re free to check your messages, relax, or do whatever you want.

Once the 5 minutes are up, you get back to work. Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros, you get to take a longer 15 to 30-minute break. There are several free Pomodoro apps in the Google and Apple app stores.

If you prefer to time yourself the old-school way, any kitchen timer will work. Simply use a piece of paper to track how many Pomodoros you’ve completed.
The Pomodoro Method will keep you on task while studying.

Final Thoughts

There’s a common misperception that online classes are easier than in-person classes. The reality is, online classes can be more challenging than in-person classes because they require a high level of self-discipline and focus.

Online classes are here to stay. You can succeed at online classes by getting organized and managing your time effectively. Follow the tips in this article to maximize your chances of succeeding in your online classes.

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Michelle Tsou

Contributor at ExamCave. Michelle graduated with a BA in English from Portland State University. She hopes to one day run her own test-prep organization.