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6 Tips for Success with Online Classes

Two Macbook Pro laptops on a desk transferring data from one to the other.

Image via Flickr by cogdogblog

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about the way we live our daily lives, and the classroom is no exception. While online classes have always been an excellent and convenient way to learn, many schools are turning to fully-remote classes for the fall semester, and a record number of students will be taking their classes online this year.

When your student is preparing to take online classes for the first time, it can be a challenge to prepare for such a new classroom experience. The good news is that, by taking the proper precautions, you can maximize his or her chances for successful remote classwork. Here are six tips to help your student get the most out of his or her online courses in the upcoming semester:

1. Treat It Like a Normal Class

One of the biggest misconceptions that many students have when starting an online course is that it’ll be easier than a traditional class because there’s no requirement to show up in person. This is not the case, and online study should be approached with the same expectations and academic effort as would be required for in-person programs.

When taking an online class that does not have regular conference meetings or that has reduced live session time, it can be tempting to play fast and loose with study time. Your student may prefer to put off getting his or her class time in, fitting it into his or her schedule wherever feels convenient, but this approach is not ideal.

Instead, make sure your student treats his or her online course as if it were an in-person class. A simple way to make the class feel more normal is to have your student pick a regular time in his or her schedule for each class’s assignments.

2. Prepare for Technical Problems

While the technologies available for online classes are outstanding and capable of providing a full learning experience for all students, occasional problems can still arise.

It’s important to be prepared for this potential situation and to try your best to make any problems that do arise as manageable as possible. If problems occur, remind your student that his or her teacher and classmates understand that sometimes technical problems may occur, so there’s no need to stress over how others may be seeing him or her. Simply get the system back up and running as quickly as possible, and encourage your student to reach out after class to catch up on anything he or she might have missed.

Preparing and responding well in the face of technical problems is valuable, but it’s even better to reduce the number of technical snags altogether. Before the new semester starts, take some time to assess your student’s technical setup. If possible, consider opting for an upgraded computer or faster internet connection if you have worries that the current setup is not up to the challenge of an exclusively online educational experience.

3. Create a Comfortable Study Space

Your student may be accustomed to using the dining room table for homework before dinner, but this setting might not work as well for an all-day at-home school session. Instead, find an area of your home where your student can attend live classes, talk with peers and teachers, and complete assignments and tests with minimal distractions. For instance, you might consider putting a desk in your student’s bedroom if he or she doesn’t already have one, or you might set up a work station in an open space or common area and limit possible distractions like the TV or passersby.

In addition, make sure your student’s study space is close to the Wi-Fi router (or that he or she has ethernet access to the computer), provide a comfortable desk chair or other seat for long periods of sitting, and ensure you have assembled all of the supplies your student might need, technological or otherwise.

4. Stock Up for an Effective Working Area

While working from home can greatly enhance your student’s access to supplies during a class since he or she won’t need to fit everything into one backpack, you should still ensure that your student has everything he or she needs in and around his or her working space. The less time your student spends looking for required supplies during class, the more attention he or she can apply to his or her learning.

First, their working area should have a computer and any related accessories your student requires for classes, like a mouse, tablet, or second monitor. Review the syllabus for each of your student’s classes to get a better idea of just what supplies you’ll need to assemble, as not every class will make the same demands of students.

Even for an online class, your student will likely also need access to materials for doing work by hand, as well. Whether that means a notebook and pens for taking notes freehand, a sketchpad for an art class, or something else entirely, what’s important is that your student has everything he or she needs when he or she needs it.

5. Keep Everything Organized, On and Offline

Cluttered areas lead to cluttered minds, and this maxim applies both to your student’s physical working area and his or her digital files. Keep the area around the computer clean so your student has ample room to use the mouse or take physical notes.

Emphasize the importance of online organization as well. Many distance learning courses use online drives where files can easily be read, edited, and shared. Suggest to your student that he or she use folders within the online drive or on the computer for each class, and perhaps even subfolders for different units in each course. To go one step further, each class’s folder could be color-coded to coordinate notebooks and binders of class notes with digital files, as well as with scheduled times on their computerized calendar. Such a system will ensure that your student has an easily accessible and understandable file system for all of his or her classes and projects.

6. Help Them Stay Connected

One of the biggest struggles of online classes is how lonely they can feel compared to a traditional in-person semester. So, encourage your student to seek out group chats beyond class time. In addition to helping your student make connections with classmates for help when needed, such fun conversations about everyday topics can make this atypical high school experience feel more normal.

Final Thoughts

While a semester of online learning may sometimes prove challenging for students, it also provides unique opportunities to explore new methods of learning and to acquire new skills and approaches to one’s studies. Thankfully, with some careful planning and thoughtful organization, your student can still thrive and grow in these unusual circumstances.

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