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Tips for taking online classes: Yes…YOU can do this!

Updated on December 4, 2014

Many of my students are working one, two or even three jobs. They have a family to take care of too. These are not the traditional college students. Some of them are caring for their children and their parents. They cannot always make it to a 9:00 a.m. seated class on campus. There are many challenges that exist for military people too.

All of these people deserve to earn a college education too. The online format may not be for everyone. However, it serves a very relevant purpose for many people. If you have some anxiety over the online format, I encourage you read this article. The only way to know if you will be comfortable taking a class online is to actually try it. It’s typically not a “capable” problem. It is more of a “self-discipline” issue.

My learning preference is in the online format. I have earned two degrees in the online venue, and it works better for me and makes so much more sense. When I was earning my degrees, I didn't have time to commute to class. Not only that, I noticed the professors would sometimes get sidetracked, or I would have to listen to stories from several people in the class that weren't relevant to the topic. It wasn’t fun. You may have heard this phrase: "Stop beating a dead horse!" I didn’t have to deal with that in the online format. I'm sure your time is just as precious to you as my time is to me. Online learning works best for me in my busy life.

The convenience of online classes was my reason for trying them for the first time. However, the quality of the learning was why I continued taking online classes. I am offering some of my ideas that kept me on track while commuting, working, being a mother of an active child and managing other important aspects of my life. I also share these tips with my online students.

I hope you find them useful.

Time: It’s yours - - don’t lose it!

I can't stress this enough. Manage it or lose it. You will have to force yourself to stop playing Candy Crush or those other games you have easy access to on your phone. Put down the iPad and the remote control. First, do you must; then, you can do what you want. Time management is the greatest slayer of success in online learning. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day. We may not have control over other people's time, but we need to maintain some control over our own time. Don't let the time slayer get you! There is no "one-size-fits-all" in a time management schedule. Ultimately, this takes self-discipline. For more logical information regarding time management, please see my article titled "Time Management for Non-Traditional College Students".

Design a study plan for yourself and take it seriously.

Decide what time of the day is best for you to study….then, stick to this plan. Routine is key. Forming this habit is like forming any other habit. This is especially true if you have kids, work, and other classes. Perhaps, choose two days a week that you have time to do your work that enables you to meet the obligations of your course. Don’t skip a study time… no matter what. Don’t take ADVANTAGE of the flexibility online learning offers you.

Have a plan for childcare – don’t wait until you need it.

For those of us who have children…our children are the most important thing to us in life. Be sure you have someone to help you. You may need some extra study time during the mid-terms, finals and while working on your research paper. Frontload your time and have someone who can help you. This will help reduce some of your stress.

Environment and ambiance.

Do this for yourself. Find the right environment to use for studying. This could be a local library, on campus, or going to a quiet coffee shop. Some of you will prefer to have silence when trying to concentrate, and others prefer background noise. No matter what - - try to find a well-lit place that is free from distractions. You will find that you'll finish your work in less time if you aren't being distracted. Not only that, but your work will be higher quality. Atmosphere is really important. Change it up once in a while. Go someplace new to write, read and study.


Learn how to use the platform for your course. The last thing you want to worry about is how to use the platform. Take the time to review the tutorials.

Follow Directions - - precisely – don’t assume.

This is easy. Simply read everything that is offered to you by your instructor and follow the instructions precisely. Read everything immediately. This allows you the opportunity to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Don’t let your professor off the hook; ask questions!

Remember Netiquette

Be respectful. People won’t know if you are smiling, winking, frowning, being defensive, or just joking around when you type in the online forum. Make sure your posts and communication with everyone is professional. Feel free to use appropriate humor. Remember, the Internet is forever. This is your reputation at stake.

Cut and Paste

Here’s a major tip: Type your posts – all of them, in MS Word. Make sure you use spellcheck and proofread your work. Then, cut and paste the work into your posts. Some instructors want a specific number of words in your posts. If you type your post in MS Word first, you can use the word count in the software. This will help you compose high-quality posts.


Read every single thing your instructor posts. They may post a syllabus, a course outline, rubrics, samples, etc. Whatever the instructor posts read it and highlight areas of importance.

Self-discipline and Self-leadership: The keys to success on this journey.

Out of all of the tips I can give you, this is the one that matters the most. If you lack self-discipline and self-leadership, any online class will be a challenge for you. In fact, LIFE will be a challenge.

Self-discipline and self-leadership are very personal. Those concepts cannot be taught. Those are the little fires that burn deep down in your belly…and you need to find the right fuel to pour on those fires to bring them to a burning inferno. That is your challenge. Think about the reason you started college in the first place. Can you see yourself in working in a meaningful job in the future? Do you think your college education will be worth it?

These tips can help you in both seated and online courses. But, if online classes frighten you, following these tips can truly help you manage your anxiety and be successful in the online venue.

Yes, you can do this!


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    • Dr Kitty Brandal profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr. Kitty Brandal 

      3 years ago from Huron, OH


      Thank-you kindly. I spent many years in the military. I feel very passionate about this. Everyone who wants an education should have access. Seated classes are nice....I enjoy being in them and I enjoy teaching them. However, not everyone has access.

      I am delighted that you found this useful.


    • Dr Kitty Brandal profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr. Kitty Brandal 

      3 years ago from Huron, OH


      I hear that a lot. Folks feel they don't have the discipline to take an online class. However, tell your son that he is ALREADY disciplined. If he gets up, gets to school (physically), and engaged in the rest of his day...that's discipline!

      Some people need the convenience. If your son has a job, engaged in sports, social activities, or other things he may find that replying to his class and professor on "his own" time fits into his life. Online classes may not be for everyone. But...there are many college graduates today that didn't think "college" at all was for them. They tried it...and were successful.

      I hope your son gives it a chance! Thank-you kindly for sharing this information, Mary.


    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 

      3 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Well this sounds like a recipe for success. You thought about everything. Voted up, interesting, useful, Tweet.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      3 years ago from Florida

      I have encouraged my son who is a Junior in college to take some on line classes. He doesn't thing he has the self discipline, and won't even try. You have given some good advice here for students who will take on line classes.

      Voted UP, and shared.


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