Top 5 Tips for Success in an Online Class #winning #focus #letsdothis

#1. Log in to the class every weekday.

The #1 tip I have for you is to log in to D2L every weekday. During your daily log-ins, you should check to see first if I've posted any new announcements. Then look through some of the discussion posts, and throw a few comments in here or there as you see fit. At least once a week, check the grade book and see how you're progressing. Make sure you're reading the written content and watching the videos linked. Use the checklists to help you. If you are so inclined, maybe even start a conversation in the Random Chatter forum. If you play your cards right, this strategy will leave your weekends free, eliminate the need to cram at the last minute, and will keep you connected with the course at all times.

#2. Email me immediately if you're confused or have questions

The second most important thing - maybe even tied for first - is to email me immediately if you are confused or have questions. You should know that as much attention as I pay to details in this class, I still make mistakes. The old saying that everyone needs an editor is so true, especially with me. Every semester, I tend to make some minor errors that can wreak havoc with an online class's organizational structure. They are not intentional, and I always admit my mistakes & fix them promptly. But I am relying on you to help me figure out when I've gone astray. I'm never offended by the polite student email that asks for clarification on a due date because the syllabus says one thing but the assignment folder says another, or something like that. In fact, I appreciate your attention to detail and the rest of the class will thank you, too.

Of course, if you have content or other questions about the course, those are welcomed, too. I'm here to help you learn. The best way I can do that is to respond to you when you need assistance. And I don't know you need help unless you tell me. As they said in Jerry Maguire:

#3. Stay Organized

I so remember what it's like to be a busy college student. Everyone's experience is different, but mine went like this: I always carried a full class load of at least 15, sometimes 17 credit hours a semester. I was a Communication major and a Spanish minor. I taught a Spanish language lab for freshmen students. I had a work-study job on campus for 12 hours a week. I was president of my sorority. I was involved in three academic honor societies. I was a member or officer of several on- and off-campus service organizations. I was a campus tour guide. I was a university ambassador required to participate in service events for the President's Office, University Athletics, and the Admissions Office. Plus, I had friends I liked to spend time with, places to go, and a scholarship to keep, which meant I had to make good grades (I graduated with a 3.94 overall gpa, and I'm still not over those 2 B's I made). My trick: I planned out every hour of every day on Sunday nights, usually during my sorority chapter meetings when I should've been paying attention to the all important discussions we had about date parties.

I tell you this story to reiterate one point: staying organized can truly change your life. Still to this day, my Google calendar is color-coded and planned out by the hour. It is the only thing that keeps me sane. If you come find me in 10 years, I'll be doing the same thing. This is my strategy for doing life. While you may not want to go whole-hog and plan out every single hour, you really should consider building time each week - ideally, the SAME TIME each week - to do the course content. Even more ideally, that time will not be from 10-11:59 pm on Sunday nights. You simply can't be successful in the course if you are only devoting 2 hours a week to the content, and if you wait til the last minute every week. Maybe you can get to campus before your 11 am class, grab your coffee, and spend from 9:30-10:55 doing the online work each day. Maybe you have a break from 12:30-3. Go to The Commons from 12:30-1:15, then hunker down in the library from 1:30-2:45 for online work time. You get the picture.

My recommendation is to find 1.5-2 hours each weekday to devote to the online class. If you can't block out that much time every day, do 1 hour on 1 day and 2.5 hours the next, and alternate from there. Figure out what will work for you, make a commitment today to stick to that schedule, and do it all semester. Report back and let me know how it goes. Along with that...

#4. Minimize distractions in your workspace

I don't know about you, but the ability to keep multiple browser windows open is really a horrible thing for productivity. The hardest thing about teaching an online class is probably the same hardest thing about taking one: it is so hard to stay focused when the Internets, and all their hilarious cat videos, are right there. I mean, my class is interesting, but it's hard to compete with stuff like this:

Throw in a few 20-odd minute compilations of Parks & Rec spoilers, and there goes my afternoon.

My point is: be a responsible adult and train yourself to minimize distractions while you're working on the class content. Temporarily mute iMessage on your laptop. Set your phone to "Do Not Disturb" mode for an hour and see how productive you are. Give yourself 5 minutes to scroll through Facebook and then don't look at it again until your blocked off amount of time is finished. Find a quiet, calm place to work (not on your couch while your roommates are watching The OA - man, that show is disturbing me something fierce right now) and commit to only working on the course there. If you're like me and get antsy after you sit in the same place for 2 hours, take a break every 2 hours. Get up, walk around, eat a snack, talk to people, go outside, and then change scenery. I've been known to leave my house or office for Cool Beans, just because I need a different venue to work. If you can master this strategy now, as an undergraduate, your career and life will be well served in the future.

#5. Take all your notes by hand.

I know what you're thinking. "But, Dr. Daws. This is an ONLINE course. I have my laptop RIGHT HERE. Why would I write down notes? Are you crazy?"

First of all, yes, I am a bit crazy. Sorry. Second: there is a considerable amount of research to support that you will learn the material better if you hand write your notes. In this class, what that means is: keep a notebook full of your thoughts and questions about the textbook readings, the lecture videos, and the other content as you go through it. These sorts of notes will help you whenever you post in the discussion forum, and they'll help you retain the information better, which will be helpful when you take the exams and write your papers. Trust me on this one. It feels strange, but as you know from taking handwritten notes in face-to-face classes, it works much better. And it goes along with the whole minimize distractions thing I mentioned earlier.

If you can employ these 5 strategies in your everyday life, I think you'll find the online class experience to be beneficial, and I think you'll start to see an improvement in all of your classes. These were sneakily not just 5 tips for online classes, but 5 tips for #winning, staying #focused, and being an organized college student. Thanks for reading along, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors here at SOCM in KSU.


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