There are a lot of advantages to taking classes online. While there may be occasions where you need to log in at a specific time to attend a lecture, do group work or watch a webinar, most of the time you can work on our classwork at any time of day. You get to work at your own pace. You don't have to drive or walk to class. For many of us who juggle school and a full-time job, it's a great way to get classwork to fit in your personal schedule. Yet along with these advantages, there are pitfalls. It can be easy to fall behind and more difficult to get help from your professor. When compared to a traditional classroom, it is just a different learning environment. There is less supervision and often less structure, which makes it easier to form bad habits – habits that could hinder your success in the class. Here are five bad habits to avoid when taking online classes.
1. Watching Television or Other Distractions While Studying
When you are physically in a class, there are others around you who are all paying attention (hopefully) to what the professor is teaching. Students are engaged and asking questions. Often in online classes, your classwork consists of reading or watching a lecture, and then writing and responding to discussion posts. It happens almost without you noticing it. You're in your own personal space reading your class material. Then you quickly check your Facebook status or you have YouTube playing in the background or are catching up on the latest episode of your favorite show. Then your "class time" becomes a time suck. Suddenly your class material becomes the background. The studying that should have taken you an hour has now taken three hours and you really don't remember what all of it was about. You wouldn't bring Netflix or YouTube or Facebook into a conventional class, and you shouldn't bring it into your virtual class either! Class time is class time.
2. Studying Whenever You Have the Time
The freedom that comes with being able to choose when you study can also be your downfall. You need to schedule and block out time each week for your class work. If you spend your week waiting for a free hour or two for study time to show itself, it's never going to happen. If you don't proactively schedule time, then likely you won't have enough time to finish your work.
3. I'll Just Log into the Class Once a Week
It's important to remember that if you're taking an online class, the only interaction you'll have with your professor and other students is online. Login and check the information on your class at least once a day. You may find that the professor has added important information or changes to the classwork for that week or added clarification to something students didn't understand. Make sure you know what is going on with your class.
4. I Didn't Read the Syllabus
Remember that, since this is an online course, you will not have face time with your professor very often. The syllabus is an important part of an online course and you should refer to it regularly to make sure you are where you need to be in the course each week. It will tell you what you need to know and possibly even assignments you need to complete each week to stay caught up.
5. Discussion Posts are Dumb
Many online classes have a discussion board where you are asked to make posts and respond to posts each week on a particular topic. Often there is a stated minimum activity on the discussion board, such as a requirement to create one post on a particular topic or question and respond to two posts that other classmates have created. This is not a waste of time. It is the online equivalent of class discussion and class participation. It allows you to exchange ideas and questions with your classmates and gives the professor a way to assess how well you are grasping the material. It's best to do more than the minimum suggested posts, so that you get the most out of your classroom participation time. For many online classes, participation in discussion posts is part of your grade for the class.
Online classes are convenient, and can be a great way to earn college credit. Avoiding these bad habits can help you be successful in your online class and help you avoid unnecessary stress.