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8 Tips to Successfully Take an Online Class

8 Tips to Successfully Take an Online Class

Online classes are both similar to and different from regular courses. In principle, the goal is exactly the same: to successfully learn the concepts being taught. In practice, you’ll need to approach the course from a slightly different angle. Follow these tips and you will be on your way to a passing grade.

1. Read up ahead of time.

Your school is likely to grant you access to the online class up to a week before it starts (or more). This is a good time to familiarize yourself with the layout of the course, peruse the syllabus, and perhaps shoot an email to the professor. Getting the lay of the land early will prepare you for the months to come.

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2. Schedule it in like any other class.

Online courses are really easy to forget about because they don’t necessarily have a regular meeting time. The best way to deal with this is to pick a set day and time every week to sit down and do the class. Finish everything you are required to do, and then plan for the next week. Tell your friends and employers that you will be busy at this time, just like if you were physically in class.

3. Don’t put it off.

Life happens. You will probably disregard the last tip a few times during the semester simply because things came up. As soon as you take care of your obligations, get right back on the ball. If you can’t do it on Tuesday afternoon, do it that night. Don’t give in to the temptation to put it off.

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4. Consume everything the professor posts.

Do so regularly, and for everything. That includes every bulletin post, announcement, document, PowerPoint presentation, video, audio file, hyperlink, and so on. The professor will probably test you on all of this, so you need to be familiar with the entirety of it.

5. Interface electronically with the professor.

Let him or her know that you’re a human being, not just a name on an electronic list. Discuss your grades with him. Ask questions to her about the assignment. The more the professor is aware of you, the better your chances of getting a good grade. Doing so won’t automatically bump you up, but it can’t hurt.

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6. Go to office hours at least once.

This is important for the same reasons as number five. Your professor will now be able to put a face to a name. You inherently become more real to them from a psychological standpoint. As a bonus, you also get to understand who your professor is as a person, which may offer some insight on how to better complete the course.

7. Get ahead if you can manage it.

Many professors of online courses will post every homework assignment at the beginning of the semester. If you have the time and dogged persistence, getting a few weeks ahead almost never hurts (so long as you don’t do so as an excuse to slack off). This will give you time to approach your exams at a more relaxed pace, and perhaps review material on which you were not as clear.

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8. Talk to your classmates.

Your online class platform probably has a means to discuss the assignments with others taking the class. You may or may not need to utilize this feature, but it’s a handy one to have. Typical setups include message boards, social networking, and profile creation capabilities. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, put your email address on your profile during week one.

Optional: Consider investing in a laptop.

Having constant access to your online class can make or break your grade. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere, unable to finish that test or watch that video because you don’t have a computer available. Consider purchasing an inexpensive laptop for this purpose. Many schools have promotions and deals specifically for students in need of a portable computer.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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