14 Study Hacks for Online Courses

By Lorena Roberts on November 15, 2017

Taking an online class isn’t rare anymore — more and more universities are moving to online models. If you’re taking an online class, you might be afraid of what you’re getting into. You may not know how to take an online class, or how to study.

Here are some hacks for tackling online courses if you’ve never done it before.


1. Plan your time

If you treat your online class like it’s an in-person class, you’re guaranteed to save yourself some stress. If you can plan time to spend on your class each week that’s consistent, you’ll probably make better grades and learn more of the material.

I’d suggest sitting down at the beginning of the semester with a weekly planner. Color in times that you’ll work on your online class. Write down the deadlines. Make sure you write reminders out weeks in advance so it doesn’t sneak up on you!

2. Skim the material

Most of the time, online classes are typically surveying whether you’ve even bought the textbook. When it comes time for those online quizzes, skim the chapter first, but be prepared to have to look up the nitty gritty details (if those are even required).

3. Collaborate appropriately

When it’s time for a test, grab some study partners! When a paper is due, peer review each other! The thing that online classes lack most is the community that’s typically created. Clicks form in in-person classes and people learn who they can and can’t work with. Treat an online class the same! Try to create a community for yourself.

4. Maximize your time

The last thing you want to be doing is dragging out your online class. If it’s the one place you can really work ahead, sacrifice your time on breaks and finish the course early! You’ll be thankful during final exam season, I promise.

5. Break it up into chunks

Set deadlines for yourself throughout the semester. If you break it up into chunks, you’ll feel less overwhelmed. Once you accomplish a chunk, you’ll really feel productive!

6. Email the professor

The more the professor sees your name (in a good way) the more likely it is that they’ll favor you when it comes time to assign grades. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the semester, ask well-thought-out questions over the course of the class, and end the semester with a solid “thank you” email. I know it sounds cheesy, but it could be the difference between an A and a B, you never know.

7. Know what you’re getting into

If you have a tough semester, don’t sign up for a demanding online course. Do your best to research the class and professor prior to taking the course. You’ll thank yourself later when you’ve saved yourself from a demanding academic schedule.

8. Choose wisely

Probably don’t take Calculus 17 online. That doesn’t sound like a good idea. But maybe take public relations or an English class online? Pick your online class wisely and you won’t get stuck in a bad position.

9. Plan trips accordingly

If you’re going to be out of town at any point during the term, make sure you plan around your assignments. Turn things in early, or do some studying ahead of time. Contact your professor should you have any truly, tough-to-resolve conflicts.

10. Look at the roster

If you can identify some people you know in the class, use your resources! Meet up with them to study and compare notes.

11. Have a designated study space

I wouldn’t recommend this being your bed. Whether it’s a cozy corner, a desk, or your dining room table, having a space where you’re going to study every time will make you more productive. Plus — it’s super fun to decorate a little study space for yourself.

12. Put your goal in writing

It’s easy to slack off in an online course. If your goal is to pass the class, write it down. If your goal is to make an “A,” write it down. If your goal is to complete a degree and walk across a stage, write it down. Keep yourself motivated by identifying your goals.

13. Have an accountability partner

If you tell someone about your goals throughout the semester, you’ll have someone who can hold you accountable. You’re more likely to follow through if you have someone depending on you to be successful.

14. Don’t procrastinate

The worst thing you can do is put off a project or a test until the last minute. Make sure you divide up your assignments and keep up with a calendar. If you do fall behind, re-write your calendar to make up for the lost time. You’ll be glad you didn’t put it off when you finish the course and end up with a better grade because of it.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her pup at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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