4 Simple Strategies for Succeeding in Online Classes

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Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts on how to successfully pursue an online college degree. The first was “3 Tips for Choosing a Great Online University.”

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about the difficulty of online classes.They’ve been mostly educators or professional people I would consider well suited to academic pursuits.

Because I earned my degree from an online program and went to four different online colleges, I have a pretty good idea of what these people encountered in the classes they took.

While I found it challenging to earn my degree, it did not seem overwhelming to me. When I considered what the real challenges were, I became convinced that the hardships these people encountered were ones of time management and planning rather than academic ones.

Here are some of the steps I took that made my degree pursuit run smoothly.

1. Plan for success

Once you have chosen your university and enrolled, you will need a plan to succeed in your course work.

Take a close look at family needs, work schedule and classes. Make a plan for the time you will allot to schoolwork each day. Setting school hours and sticking to them will greatly increase the likelihood that you will complete all of your work and turn it in on time.

It is better to be a little rigid with this at the beginning of your classes until you can see what kind of time commitment each class actually requires. The requirements tend to vary, and each semester looks a little different.

When you have a pretty good grasp of what your requirements are for each week, it is easier to flex a little without throwing your whole schedule out of whack.

2. Include some wiggle room in your schedule

If your papers are usually due on Sunday at midnight, make a goal of completing your work for the week by Friday night. Unforeseen complications in completing a project are bound to come up when you’re juggling the demands of career, family and other classes. Even problems within an assignment can throw a carefully planned schedule into disarray.

I usually had no problem finding research materials for papers I was writing, but there were times when a source I was relying on turned out to be less than what I expected. Because I had a few extra days before the actual deadline, that was not a problem. If I had not allowed for that, I would have been turning in late papers and getting lower grades.

In a best-case scenario, you might even end up having some free time.

3. Carefully track and document your work

Probably the most helpful thing I did was to write down every single thing that needed to be completed for the week and check it off as I completed it and turned it in.

It is obvious that writing down assignments, quizzes and papers is necessary, but I even wrote down each time I was required to check in on a discussion board and complete a post or reply to a peer. The school I attended required a set number of times to participate each week, and carefully tracking them saved me from having to go back and count to be sure I had completed each post.

4. Make the best of the opportunities to interact with classroom peers

Completing all of your assignments on time and participating in an online environment will make your professors happy and improve your grades. Discussion board participation is especially important in an online learning situation. There is less opportunity to interact with peers face to face than in a traditional college experience, but a lot of interaction can occur on a discussion board.

Degree completion has never been as accessible as it is with today’s technological advances. By doing some simple research and planning, you can get a legitimate degree that will earn you credibility with employers.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Miss Butterfly

    A lot of good tips in this article for those considering an online degree. The most important one is to plan. You must have a definite place in your schedule for classes, and you must be consistent with that schedule, which involves discipline. You are not sitting in a classroom with a professor at the head of the class, so it is all on you. This is a milestone in your life – pursue it with an attitude of succeeding.

    For those who have family responsibilities, it can be challenging, and that is where good planning comes in. It may be necessary to sit down with your family and explain your goal, and how you would appreciate it if they could help you to reach that goal. If you have children, you may want to do your homework together, or select a quiet time for your children to read a book while you do homework. With younger children, you may have to do those reports after they have gone to bed. It is also
    necessary to let your family and friends know that you will not be available for long telephone conversations or over-stayed visits during this time.

    The editor of this article has mentioned discussion boards, and interacting with your peers online.It is also important to attend the ‘live’ online instruction classes. Most of the classes are audio, and you have the opportunity to ask the instructor questions, and to hear questions and comments from your classmates. I found this to be much more beneficial than listening to an archived class.

    I received an online degree in 2008, at 64 years old. The process was easier for me because I was retired, and my schedule was flexible; however, it still required discipline. I was hesitant about the beginning process, but I had college credits that I had accumulated over a twenty-five year span, and I needed to complete the goal which was set so many years before. I maintained 4.0 GPA and I was the keynote speaker at graduation (which was the first time in the history of the college that they had an actual, rather than virtual, graduation ceremony).

    I share my experience because I am passionate about education, and it is never to late to educate. So, no matter what your age, if you are thinking about an online education, pursue it.

  • ManoaHi

    Calendars. These are invaluable. I enter every syllabus into a calendar, since on-line instructors know how to keep a class on schedule no date slips. Particularly if your calendar can operate on many devices.

    Backups. Of course everyone does regular backups, right? Our family does. We’re primarily an Apple family, our daughter is the black sheep (but she is by far the smartest) uses Windows. For the Macs, we have quite a few TimeMachine backups and I found a similar program for Windows (although not built in), So, they (the backup utilities alternate backups from connected external drive and NAS.

    Backup Plan I. What if your Internet connection goes down? This has happened a number of times over the years, once the router just stopped working. Luckily I had a spare router (ok, I’m a junk collector). Next day I bought a better and faster router, but for that night, having the extra router saved us. What if your Internet connection goes down? This is actually a worrying regular occurrence, the modem dies every once in a while requiring a new modem, but several days out is the norm replacement times. But I have a completely separate backup Internet connection (previously, we’ve gone to McDonald’s and used their free WiFi. You can’t spend that many hours there. I decided to get another Internet connection.

    Backup Plan II. What happens if your computer dies? For us, we have multiple computers in the house, so anyone could just borrow someone else’s. We actually have more computers than people. So, if time for a refresh of equipment? Don’t discard your old equipment. But you do have to keep it patched and keep AntiVirus/Malware definitions up to date, on the old one as well.