Nine tips to make the most of your online classes

Jacqueline Written by Jacqueline (she/her), student

Benefits of taking online courses

Now that many high school courses have moved to an online format, you might be worried about how you can maintain the same level of learning at home. Here are a few tips for this new way of learning.

It’s convenient and flexible

One of the best benefits of online courses is the flexibility they offer. In high school I wanted to take Grade 12 accounting since I was going into a business program. However, the class didn’t fit into my schedule and I thought I wouldn’t be able to take the class.

After talking to a guidance councillor, she let me know I could take Grade 12 accounting online. This worked out perfectly for me because I could take the course in any time slot – very convenient! It also meant I got to work on the class assignments at my own pace and in any setting – like the dining room or kitchen table.

It helps with the transition to university

One of the biggest benefits I found from taking online courses was how my time management skills developed. Since there's no teacher announcing in front of your class the different assignments that are due, it’s your responsibility to remember them, update your calendar, and plan out when you're going to work on assignments.

This is very similar to university classes; you work on your assignments and study for tests on your own time outside of class. I think this really helped me adjust to the pace of university lectures and assignments.

It's also likely that in university, you’ll take an online class at some point, so getting used to managing your time in high school to complete the course requirements is a huge advantage.

A teen on a laptop.

Tips to make the most of your online courses

Make a study plan

Look at the course outline and make a study schedule. Are there discussion posts due every Thursday? Maybe you'll read the required reading on Monday, write the discussion post on Tuesday, and then comment on others’ discussion posts Wednesday and Thursday.

Developing a study schedule will help you stay organized and remember when assignments are due.

Treat it like a real course

Online courses are weighted the same as in-class courses, so don’t slack off because you physically don’t go to a classroom to learn every weekday.

Create a regular routine

Find a regular study space in your home. This could be your kitchen table, the desk in your room, or somewhere in the basement. This will help you get into work mode and keep you organized.

Hold yourself accountable

This is still a course that will show up on your high school transcript, so you shouldn’t slack off. Find a study buddy. Maybe it’s someone in your class, or another friend taking a different online class. Hold each other accountable for doing your schoolwork.

Remember to set goals for yourself. Do you want to finish the assignment two days before the due date, so you have a day to ask questions or edit the assignment? Do you want a certain grade in the course? Set that as a goal and work towards it throughout the term.

Eliminate distractions

If you need a quiet setting to work efficiently, then find this space so you don’t get distracted. If you are easily distracted by social media, then limit the amount of time you can look at your phone while spending time on your online course. You might want to consider turning your phone off if it easily distracts you.

A person taking notes.

Practise your time management skills

Use your agenda or calendar to track your major assignment due dates or test dates. Follow the study plan you created with your weekly schedule and reminders. You’ll thank yourself later! One strategy is to use time blocking. This means you set aside a certain amount of time each day or during the week to focus only on this class. For example, maybe Monday night you spend an hour and a half working on your math class.

Remember to take notes

Online courses are still classes that require you to remember important information. Write down key terms or concepts to help you remember them for future assignments or tests.

Ask questions

Sometimes points aren’t articulated clearly over notes or PowerPoint presentations. There are normally discussion forums to ask questions, and you can always email your teacher to clarify points or questions you have. Even though you may never interact with your teacher in person, it doesn’t mean teachers aren’t around to help.

Teachers still want the best for their students and are happy to further clarify questions you may have. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Actively participate

Even though you are not in a classroom where you can see your classmates, it doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them. There are normally participation forums where you can connect with others. Make use of them!

There you have it! The benefits of online courses and my top nine tips on how to make the most out of this way of learning.

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