While many adult learners take college courses over the summer, there can still be a bit of an adjustment getting back into the fall term and the ramp-up of activities and events in our lives. The following list includes many study tips for online students to stay on track.
STUDY TIP #1: Get into the fall swing by staying organized.
Create a calendar and stick to it. With kids back in school and some fashion and other activities starting in the fall, create a calendar on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or even an old-fashioned, handwritten one. This will help you map out your days, weeks, and months to ensure you will have enough study time for your coursework and know exactly when those important quizzes, exams, and term papers are coming up.
Create a folder for each of your fall classes. Whether this is an electronic folder on your computer or a handy paper one, make sure you have a set space for each class you are taking this fall. Keep your syllabus, course documents, term papers, notes, and anything else that is relevant to a particular class here. Doing so will ensure you don’t mix up any of your class materials. When it’s time to study, you’ll know exactly where to look for specific information.
STUDY TIP #2: Prepare for online classes if you haven’t taken them before.
Many college students will be taking some of their courses online or in a blended format for the first time this fall as colleges and universities take precautions for the pandemic. For adult learning students, this number could be even larger.
If you’ve never done online learning before, take some time to familiarize yourself with your online learning platform. Log in and explore how it all works, how to easily navigate to each online course, and how to contact your instructors or fellow students. Keep the contact info for IT handy in case you need technical support. Once you get deeper into your classes, you’ll be more comfortable and efficient as an online learner.
Plus, one of the big study tips to consider is to ensure you can quickly access your study materials. In order to find the information you need to read and comprehend for your coursework, preparing yourself for online learning is the best thing you can do to get the studying process started in a pinch.
For an overview of what the online learning landscape looks like if you are brand new to this modality, check out this blog article on things to expect as a first-time online learner.
STUDY TIP #3: Prepare for possible technology issues.
Consider how your academic performance might be affected if you lose access to technology during important times, like taking an exam or doing online homework. If you’re sharing internet with multiple people think about how that might impact your connectivity during an online exam or while giving a zoom presentation, for example. Talk to your family/roommates about creating a schedule that gives you maximum access during those times.
If you can’t submit a homework assignment or project because of technical problems, don’t forget to email your instructor to let them know what’s going on. Be sure to include the file/homework/project as proof that it was done on time. Screenshots are also useful tools when communicating technology problems.
STUDY TIP #4: Create a dedicated workspace.
Some of you might be spending the rest of the semester at home with parents, other family members, roommates, or possibly friends. Even if you’re not, it’s important to create a
good working and studying environment. Find a space that you can dedicate to “attending” online classes and studying. It might be your dining table, it might be a home office, it might be your mom’s sewing room—regardless, set it up so that your brain knows “when I’m in this space, it’s time to focus.”
STUDY TIP #5: Set boundaries.
Talk with the people you live with about creating a situation that respects your time and study space. It’s hard to focus if your mom is calling for you to take out the garbage while you’re watching a Zoom lecture. Share your plan and schedule with everyone so they know what to expect.
STUDY TIP #6: Look ahead to understand your assignment due dates.
Typically, students who take online courses interact with the subject matter and their assignments through a learning management system (LMS). Online classes at Regis, for example, take place through Moodle; other popular tools include Blackboard and Canvas.
Whichever LMS your courses utilize, it’s crucial that you spend time familiarizing yourself with the interface and with your specific assignments. Look ahead at your scheduled assignments, and take particular note of your due dates so that you can better craft a realistic plan for completing all of your work.
“In an online class, things typically run in a modular format, where you might not have the normal structure of a face-to-face class,” says Small. “You often don’t have that physical reminder of being in the classroom that work is due. There’s a lot going on in an online class, and students need to organize their time.”
STUDY TIP #7: Touch base with your professor often.
Just as it’s important for you to communicate with your groupmates and your classmates, it’s important that you also communicate with your professor or instructor. Make the effort to touch base with your professor, whether you have questions about an assignment or just want to let them know where you’re struggling.
You don’t need to struggle with questions or concerns on your own – the professor is there to help you. A five-minute phone call with your instructor can save you days of stress. You’ll feel better, you’ll get clarification, and you’ll be more successful.
Don’t think that you can only communicate when something is going wrong, though. Letting your professor know when something has gone right—whether it’s a lesson that you took particular value out of, or appreciation for a groupmate – can go far in helping you build a relationship with your instructor.
STUDY TIP #8: Participate as much as possible.
Whether you’re taking courses online or in-person, participation is crucial to success. In addition to showing your professor that you’re engaged, active participation shows that you’re learning and that you’re willing to put in the effort that’s required to be successful. While education is often perceived by some as a passive process, participation turns it into an active process.
Simply put, the more you participate as a student, the more you’ll get out of your experience.
STUDY TIP #9: Connect with classmates remotely to support each other in your classes.
Whether you are doing online learning, classroom learning, or a blend of both this fall, make connections with your classmates.
Introduce yourself to those in a classroom or through the discussion board of your online course. Tell others about your personal background, work experience, family, and anything else you might feel is worth sharing. Try and learn the same about some of your classmates. You just might find some others with whom you can relate very well, and this could lead to virtual study groups and other beneficial interactions to not only help yourself but others as well.
STUDY TIP #10: Get some fresh air to keep your mind fresh.
Being inside so much can take a toll on our minds, especially our ability to focus. So, try spending some time outside of your residence on a balcony or patio, in the backyard, or even find a nearby park or open area with benches that is safe where you can still be a distance from others. Take your laptop or textbooks with you and enjoy some sunshine and the breeze. As we get further into fall, it should be even nicer to be outside. Getting fresh air can expand your mind and help you study more effectively.
Bonus tips: Use strategies to boost your mental health and cognition.
While many of us have experienced some challenges during this period of quarantine and increased isolation, there are ways to stave off the potential negative impacts of the pandemic. Such strategies can also help with keeping a clear mind when studying for your courses to ensure you have the best chance of making an A in them. Consider the following:
- Listen to music. When we listen to music, we stimulate a part of the brain that helps with cognition in other areas, including studying.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can improve mood and mental clarity and is just another way to help you focus academically.
- Practice meditation. Deep breathing has been shown to improve one’s discipline. What better way is there to succeed as an adult learning student than being disciplined?
- Try yoga. Another beneficial activity you can do inside is yoga. Stretching and breathing have so many positive impacts on the body and mind. This practice can also help adult learners be successful when working toward their degrees.
Bonus tips if your course is asynchronous (recorded lectures posted online):
- Don’t try to write down everything your instructor says. Take notes as you usually would in person (without the ability to stop the instructor or relisten).
- Do not skip ahead in the recording. Listen to everything.
- Listen to the recording until it is done playing. Your instructor could wrap it up and say goodbye and then remember one more thing to tell you.
- Listen to recordings soon after they are posted. Your instructor could make an announcement about an assignment or opportunity for you that you could miss out on if you wait.
- If your course uses discussion boards, aim to be one of the first people to post/reply. Contribute to the discussion with thoughtful posts. Write more than ‘I agree’ and ‘Good point.’
- Follow up with your instructor with any questions you may have. Visit their virtual office hours or send an email.
Bonus tips if your course is synchronous (presented online live):
- Use your webcam if possible. Instructors read students’ faces and body language to gauge if they need to slow down or explain things differently.
- Mute yourself during the lecture and then unmute if you need to speak. This minimizes distracting background noises for participants.
- Resist the temptation to look at other websites during lectures. Avoid ‘multi-tasking.’
- If it’s comfortable for you to do so, consider taking notes by hand despite being on a computer.
- Sign in to the meeting 5-10 minutes early to ensure you can connect. Your instructor may answer questions during this time.
- Your instructor may stay connected once the lecture is over to answer questions from students, so don’t log out right away.
- Ask your instructor if they (or someone else) will be reading the chatbox. If so, feel free to use it, but understand that there will likely be a delay.
- You can use the ‘Raise your hand’ feature to let your instructor know you have a question. In very large classes this may not be as useful since your instructor can only see 49 people on their screen at a time.
- Consider using a headset with headphones and a microphone (or AirPods). This keeps the noise level down in your study area and allows for better audio when speaking.