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7 Helpful Tips for Taking Online Classes for College Students

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives, colleges and universities are making plans to offer some – if not all –  of their courses online. The Michigan community college where I teach has advised professors to start make this transition as well.

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So before I let my English students leave our last classroom session (knowing I likely wouldn’t see them in person again for the remainder of the semester), I gave them some tips on making a smooth transition to virtual classes amidst the uncertainty we’re all facing.

How to Switch to Online Classes

1. Check your email several times a day

I stressed this to my students immediately. Professors will be communicating with them via email and through their online learning system. It is up to the students to stay on top of checking this form of communication. They no longer have the weekly or biweekly in-person check-ins to help fill that communication gap. They are going to have to step up their game to stay in the know.

2. Get a class buddy

Students should get a phone number and/or email from a class buddy if they don’t have one already. That way, they can verify assignment instructions and due dates with their buddy. This helps with accountability and motivation to stay on-task.

3. Communicate regularly with the professor

If a student felt apprehensive about communicating with a professor before the Coronavirus outbreak, they must get over that now. Without proper communication with their professors, students are likely to get confused or even fall behind. I reminded my students that professors want them to succeed. They should email me with questions or concerns and I will be happy to guide them along.

4. Go through the syllabus and write down all due dates

Students must be prepared. If they haven’t done so already, they should write all due dates in their planner or set digital reminders on their phones. They will no longer have the in-person reminders I give them to keep them on track.

5. Master your online learning system

For students who have been reluctant to use their institution’s online learning system, they must do it now. They should know how to submit a paper, retrieve documents, participate in an online discussion, view videos, and other tasks. If they are struggling, they need to reach out to the professor or the technology department at their school for help.

6. Utilize all of your online resources

Just because a school no longer has face-to-face learning does not mean that all of their resources are closed for the rest of the semester. Students can check to see if their writing center is available for online tutoring, for example. Further, they can utilize library services either through the library’s database website or by calling the library’s reference desk for help. It would be wise for a student to call each department to see what resources are still being offered virtually as well.

7. Schedule work time

As a professor, I worry about what my students will do with all of their “free time.” Often times, physically going to school helps students maintain their schedules. So with the added freedom of online classes, they may have a difficult time getting into a routine. It’s imperative that they set up a schedule for their work time as soon as their school makes the transition to online instruction. Without a schedule, students are much more likely to put off their work until a much later time—or worse, never get assignments done at all.

As a professor, this move to online classes worries me. Now students must quickly learn to be that much more independent and intrinsically motivated. They are used to getting face-to-face interaction at least once a week, being reminded what’s due, and given examples and instructions to help guide them through assignments. I don’t want my students to feel like they are being left alone to figure things out—because it doesn’t have to be that way at all.

Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children. She hopes that her graduate degrees in English and counseling help her do just that. Since the pandemic, Angela and her family have been rejuvenated by nature and moved to northern Michigan to allow the waves of Lake Michigan to calm their spirits. She has published articles in Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, Parents, Romper, and many more. She’s currently at work on her nonfiction parenting book,Wild Things by Nature: How an Unscientific Parent Can Give Nature to Their Wild Things.”

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