Six tips to be a successful online student

With the sudden change in school and college schedules, with the COVID-19 situation, most institutions in the U.S. are going towards online education. Many are scrambling to make this transition, while those who are better prepared are doing virtual classes smoothly.

There seem to be multiple resources for teachers on how to teach better, however; I haven’t seen many resources for students – especially if they haven’t taken many online courses and are new to the medium.

Here are my six tips for you, the learner, on how to be successful as an online student

  • Be prepared before the online chat: The first rule of online classes is to be thorough and read all the required material before you meet online, for the live chat component. Many instructors design classes that have some component of synchronous live-chat in addition to having pre-recorded videos. This is helpful, as the live-chat gives an opportunity for students to ask questions, clarify any doubts, etc.
  • Be organized: This is related to the point above, but being prepared and organized is a prerequisite, in online classes, as it is in grad school, generally. I have seen multiple students just show up to class, expecting to be spoon-fed information and knowledge. This doesn’t make for a responsible online learner
  • Listen: It is important to be a good listener. This is key to the online learning environment
  • Dedicated space: If you have kids at home or other responsibilities towards others, create a dedicated space for your online class and also for work. Communicate your need for privacy and dedicated time for study, reflection and class participation with your partner/ kids/ roommates. They should respect your need for this time and space. If you cannot create this at home, find a library or coffee shop where you can focus
  • Participate: You need to put in the effort to participate, both in online discussions as well as in the chat sessions. Being shy or reserved doesn’t help – and will not certainly earn you all the points that you can. While some students may have anxiety issues and may not participate, this medium allows for greater risk-taking, so one can overcome one’s anxiety
  • Offline work: If you need to get together with your classmates either in person or on the phone, during non-class hours, that may help in building community

Learning is a social process and the stronger your network of learners, the better. Remember, you can learn as much from your classmates as you can from others in your class as you can from the professor.

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