While many U.S. colleges and universities are not yet certain how they will hold classes in the fall semester, some — including Columbia University and Harvard University — have already opted for a full or partial online format. Online courses can be difficult for all college students, but for incoming freshmen they add an additional layer of complexity to the process of adjusting to college.
But there are paths to success. In this post, two current college students share their top tips for online classes this fall.
Communicate Early and Often
The emergence of the novel coronavirus in and the subsequent closure of higher education institutions across the U.S. prompted the first online learning experience for Danica Todorovic, a rising junior at North Park University in Chicago, and Jesus Rodriguez, a rising senior at the same college.
[Read: How to Overcome Challenges of Online Classes Due to Coronavirus.]
Both students struggled with the adjustment, partly because of decreased access to their professors. Todorovic observes that she “had to reach out to the professor by email only” when she required clarification or assistance, a direct contrast to simply walking up to an instructor before or after class.
Rodriguez expresses a similar experience, noting that his was compounded by not having “access to on-campus resources, staff and books.”
If your college or university will be fully remote in the fall, how can you surmount this hurdle?
— Be proactive about contacting your professor.
— Email your instructor at the first inkling of curricular confusion.
— Investigate what other options are available to you, such as virtual office hours.
[READ: 5 Tips to Interact Successfully With Professors, Students in Online Courses.]
Rodriguez and Todorovic also recommend staying in contact with your classmates. As Rodriguez notes, classmates can be a source of “support and information you need.” And as Todorovic says, your classmates “are in the same boat,” which is great for commiseration and understanding.
Begin and End the Semester With Discipline
High school classes often involve more “hand-holding” — frequent instructor interaction with students that guides them through a process in depth — than college courses. Similarly, in-person college classes often involve more hand-holding than online college courses. For incoming college freshmen, this can make a remote semester doubly difficult to adapt to, particularly if they have never taken an online class.
Consider, for instance, Todorovic’s summation of her spring 2020 semester: “I had to learn everything on my own.”
Learning that is more independent requires a great deal of focus and self-discipline. While you may have Zoom lectures on set days and at specific times, you will likely also have course requirements that you must manage yourself.
[READ: 5 Tips to Succeed in an Online Course.]
Todorovic identifies homework assignments as one example. In an online learning environment, your instructor may not have frequent enough contact to repeatedly remind you to complete readings and practice problems. You must remind yourself.
Rodriguez recommends “making a schedule and really making it a point to follow through.” If you would normally complete written assignments in a library, for instance, how can you replicate that atmosphere at home? When will you do so? Will you be more likely to remember a task if you set a reminder on your smartphone or if you jot it down on a sticky note?
Whether you have taken an online course before or not, it is possible to succeed in one this fall in college. Your starting point lies in these tips.