Tips for Success
The practices you need to develop to be a successful student online are very much the same ones you need to be a successful student who attends a physical classroom. However, there are some differences we will talk about, and we will show you some tips and techniques for making you successful in your online or remote classroom.
Be Open to New Experiences
Your college experience is about much more than just what you learn in the classroom. And, of course, that may be the very thing that is so frustrating about the COVID-19 disruptions. Perhaps you were planning on studying abroad, going to concerts and lectures, or just hanging out with new people. It is difficult to be asked to social distance or take classes remotely when that wasn’t part of your plan. There are some things we don’t control, and being able to adapt and make the best of any situation is an incredibly valuable skill. In almost any difficult situation there is opportunity. The challenge for all of us is to find that opportunity in a challenging circumstance.
Taking your college course remotely may be a new experience. As with any experience, your approach to it will greatly affect how successful the outcome.
If you need assistance learning how to navigate remote, online, or face-to-face classes, sign up for free Coaching.
Prepare Your Workspace
Your Physical Space:
Everybody’s situation is different and an ideal, quiet spot is not always readily available, but it is important to try to create your space.
- Find a space free of distractions. Your learning is serious business and will require moments of intense focus. The television, the internet, or people talking can interrupt your concentration.
- Try to have an area you organize in a way that makes sense for you. You will want to have enough desktop so that you can have a notebook handy to take notes as you watch an online lecture. Organize your class materials so that you always know where to find what you need to complete the class.
Your Computer Space:
Just as you prepare your physical space, you should also organize your computer space.
- Review technology requirements and make sure that you have any needed software.
- Learn more about Free Microsoft Office Software.
- Create a folder for this semester and subfolders for each of your classes. This very basic organization will help you keep your digital resources readily available.
- Review basic computer skills with the following video:
Pro tip – If you want to quickly digitize paper resources – just take a picture on your phone and upload it to your computer.
Kent State University courses are organized by units of credit hours. Each credit hour equals 15 hours of class time for the semester. For example, a 3 credit hour course equals 45 hours of class time for the semester.
For every hour of class time, students are expected to spend an additional 2-3 hours working on course activities. Therefore, in a 3 credit hour course which equals 45 hours of class time, you can expect to spend approximately 135 hours working on course activities.
Remember: Though the length of a course may vary (e.g., 7 weeks versus 15 weeks), the workload expectations remain the same. Scheduling adequate time for course work is YOUR responsibility. Please take the information below into account when considering enrollment into this or any other KSU online course:
- 135 hours of work / 15-week course = approximately 9 hours of course work per week
- 135 hours of work / 8-week course = approximately 17 hours of course work per week
- 135 hours of work / 7-week course = approximately 19 hours of course work per week
- 135 hours of work / 5-week course = approximately 27 hours of course work per week
Read the Syllabus
It’s in the syllabus!
Many people come to college never having heard of a “syllabus.” Each professor creates the syllabus for their class. This is where they explain to you what you should expect from the class and what is expected of you. “It’s in the syllabus” is a common refrain of college professors as they hope that students will read the instructions for the course before panicking or emailing with questions. Again, this is true whether online or on-ground.
- Using the Syllabus (4:02 min)
Establish Goals and Expectations for Yourself
A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What are your really big goals? What do you hope to get out of college? It’s good to think about why you are here and what you want your life to become. Such big, important thoughts can be exhilarating but also sometimes exhausting when we don’t easily see our pathway to those goals.
- Break down your big goals into smaller, more manageable goals. Be specific and detailed in defining these goals. Develop goals for each class and write them down.
- Set realistic expectations. Be honest with yourself and develop your goals accordingly. Your goals should be attainable.
- Understand the instructor’s expectations and then align your goals to those expectations. When you are in an online class there may not be as many opportunities for the instructor to give you verbal reminders as they would in a classroom, so it is even more important that you take the initiative to understand expectations and align your goals for success in that class
- Develop a schedule for your goals. Determine the dates and times when you expect to accomplish them.
- Remember that attaining your goals takes time and effort.
Help establish goals with the following videos:
Being an effective communicator is one of the most important skills you can have in college and in your professional life. Communicating at a distance is now a fact of life and you should consciously cultivate your abilities to do it well.
Communications are expected to be professional in nature. Here are a few resources to guide you in communicating with, and getting to know, your professor and peers.
Communicating appropriately in the online classroom can be challenging. In order to minimize this challenge, it is important to remember several points of “internet etiquette” that will smooth communication for both students and instructors:
- Read first, Write later. Read the ENTIRE set of posts/comments on a discussion board before posting your reply, in order to prevent repeating commentary or asking questions that have already been answered.
- Avoid language that may come across as strong or offensive. Language can be easily misinterpreted in written electronic communication. Review email and discussion board posts BEFORE submitting. Humor and sarcasm may be easily misinterpreted by your reader(s). Try to be as matter-of-fact and professional as possible.
- Follow the language rules of the internet. Do not write using all capital letters, because it will appear as shouting. Also, the use of emoticons can be helpful when used to convey nonverbal feelings.
- Consider the privacy of others. Ask permission prior to giving out a classmate’s email address or other information.
- No inappropriate material. Do not forward virus warnings, chain letters, jokes, etc. to classmates or instructors. The sharing of pornographic material is forbidden.
Help establish internet etiquette with the following videos:
Communicating with Your Instructor
Your instructor will communicate through several different methods, e-mail, live chat, discussion threads, texts. Your professor will let you know the preferred channels for communicating and will likely hold regular office hours which is a perfect time to ask questions.
It is important to stay in contact with your instructor and keep them informed of any difficulties you may have. Make sure you read the syllabus before reaching out. The syllabus contains information about your class. Be sure to pay attention to your Kent State email – that is the email that will be used by your instructor and others at the university to keep you updated. Your instructor may also have created a Q&A discussion thread in your Blackboard or Canvas course to help answer questions.
Prepare for Success
Learning takes time. In order to find that time it is important to plan how you spend your time. Your calendar is your friend. As soon as you get a syllabus for your class, enter all of your class times and assignment and exam due dates. After you have all of your classes entered, go back through and make an estimate of how much time it will take to do each assignment and how much time it will take to prepare for an exam. Now fill in the times that you will use for reading, studying, and completing assignments. Be realistic. You’ll need to include time for breaks, exercise, healthy eating, and sleep. Have you scheduled any group study sessions? Working with your classmates can be a fun and rewarding study activity.
Develop Study Skills
There are strategies and techniques that are very effective in helping us learn and retain information. Some of the strategies that we develop on our own throughout our schooling may not be very effective. As we understand more about how our brains work and how we process information, researchers have discovered techniques that can help students achieve their learning goals better.
- Effective Learning Strategies (2:37 min)
- Self-Explanation (3:04 min)
- Successive Relearning (5:24 min)
Develop Daily Habits
After you’ve filled in your calendar with all of the important events for the semester, you can now think about your daily schedule. Online classes offer added flexibility to your schedule, which can be a great benefit. That added flexibility means that you can schedule activities to match your preferred rhythm for your day. If your brain really kicks into high gear early in the afternoon, schedule that time for your intense study sessions.
We all need adequate sleep, food, and exercise. You can deliberately plan your day to maximize your opportunities for all these activities. Deliberately plan to intersperse your study time with physical activity. According to John Medina in his book Brain Rules, his number 1 rule for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school, is that exercise boosts your brainpower. “To improve your thinking skills, move.”
Routines can help us stay on track to reach our goals. Developing some consistency in our daily routines can reduce stress which is especially important when facing a lot of unknowns. Simple things like eating breakfast at the same time each day, or always settling down with readings from your class an hour before bedtime will help keep you on track for succeeding in your classes.
An advantage of being in a physical classroom is that you can look at the front of the classroom and voilà – there’s your professor. You can look around the room and there are your classmates. There is a sense of “knowing” them because they are there with you. Professors who are experienced at teaching an online class work at establishing a sense of presence in the class. As they teach online, they become more skilled at making an online classroom a place where you have a sense of each other being there together. They become skilled at being present and accessible in a virtual space.
Just as professors have to consciously cultivate this skill of creating a presence in a virtual space, so, too, will you. It takes a little bit of time but it is an important skill. Being able to connect with others is a vital skill whether you are virtually or physically present. Reaching out to your professors, classmates, and support at the university is one of those skills that is essential whether on campus or online.
It is important to connect with other students online. Friendships are made in online classes just as they are on campus. Be sure to fully participate in discussions. Don’t just do the bare minimum, but read (watch, listen) to what others have posted and engage with them. Much of the important learning that takes place at a university is through interactions with your peers.
There are a variety of spaces and tools to make connections with your classmates. Online study sessions are a great way to stay on top of your classes. Most classes will have an option for you to be able to create break-out sessions using Collaborate Ultra or Microsoft Teams to hold live chats with classmates.
Own Your Work: Develop Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations” Albert Bandura (link to 1977 paper Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change).
In other words, your belief in your ability to succeed plays a role in achieving success. Or, shortened into a meme it would be simply “I can do this”. This is the starting point of a successful college experience.
A college education helps develop confidence that you have the ability to be able to reason, think, and continue to learn on your own. As your belief in your own capabilities to tackle academic challenges increases you won’t quickly give up on difficult problems. When faced with something you don’t understand, you will put forth the time and effort to understand it because you know you are capable of doing so.
Reach Out for Help
Who Should I Ask?
Questions about your classwork, grades, or performance should first be directed to your instructor. Be sure to have read the syllabus and any communications from your instructor before reaching out. If you experience technical difficulties that affect your performance, be sure to document and reach out for help as soon as possible. Call the help desk and send your instructor an email explaining the situation when you are able.
- Instructor Insight – Brian Kelley (1:26 min)
Don’t be afraid to reach out to classmates with questions or ideas about your class. Try to establish positive connections and consider developing online study sessions.
If you are dissatisfied with something in your class and have not gotten a satisfactory resolution from your instructor, you may reach out to the Department Chair to address the problem. The website for each department will list the Chair’s name, email, and phone number. This is only done in circumstances where you have not been successful at working through the situation with the instructor.
If you are having trouble with any technology related to taking your online class, you should contact the help desk for support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember also to keep your instructor informed if a technology problem affected your work.
Mental Health Counseling
For information on mental health counseling, visit the Counseling and Human Development Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, or the Psychological Clinic.
For more information on Academic S.T.A.R.S., visit the Student Multicultural Center. And to help keep you focused, find your contact at Kent State Academic Advising. For help with studying and more information on becoming a successful student, visit the Academic Success Center.
For help with homesickness, visit the Counseling and Human Development Center. For more information on diversity resources, visit the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. e Student Success Series for more information on student success programs. Visit One Stop for Student Services for more information.
There are many valuable resources available to you as a member of the Kent State community. The library is a goldmine of useful resources – and you can get to all of them online!
Student Accessibility Services
If you are a student with a disability, Student Accessibility Services will support you in having a successful experience in the classroom.
The Kent State University Student Ombuds will assist with the resolution of any university-related concern, grievance, or appeal.
You also have technology workshops and free tutorials available to you through training.kent.edu.
Free Training from LinkedInLearning
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