5 Tips for Making Online Courses a Success

Rachel Perez, working on her online class at Grind House, a coffeeshop on Third Avenue in Chula Vista.
Rachel Perez working on her online class at Grind House, a coffeeshop on Third Avenue in Chula Vista.

With Southwestern College gearing up to spring into the new semester, you might be scrambling to find an extra class or two to add to your already packed schedule. Instead of rearranging your entire schedule to fit in another class, you might want to consider adding an online course instead.

I’ve heard a number of students say they avoid online courses like the plague. Having a hard time staying organized, procrastinating and difficulty staying on track without in-class instruction from the professor are all common struggles for many students. However, I am a huge fan of online courses. They allow you to learn at your own pace, set your own study schedule and work from pretty much anywhere.

Online classes are a great option for students who might not be able to make it to a traditional classroom, like students with families or students have a tricky work schedule. Another huge bonus is being able to add an online class or two to your schedule to achieve full-time status for financial aid, scholarships or other purposes.

If you want to browse what online classes are still open for the upcoming spring semester that begins on Jan. 28, just follow these simple steps:

  • Head to https://webadvisor.swccd.edu and click on the “students” dashboard
  • Click “Search for Classes”
  • Select the upcoming term, check the open classes box and under course types, select “online”

If you need help with your online classes, check out Southwestern College’s online learning dashboard and you can follow these tips and strategies that have helped make my online classes a success.

Stay Organized

A class planner is my best friend when I take an online course. Since you’re not in class to be reminded of due dates and deadlines, writing those dates down so you don’t miss anything definitely comes in handy. Try whatever organization methods that would work for you, like using different colored pens for different classes in your planner or an online calendar that gives you email reminders. Online courses usually have their syllabus available in PDF,  so printing it out and keeping it handy as a reference is a great idea. You’ll also want to make sure you have the right resources for your class, like access to a computer with a good Wi-Fi connection, the assigned textbooks or other materials. All Southwestern College online courses are accessed through Canvas, a platform that let allows you to see your weekly assignments, contact your professors and check your grades as soon as they are updated.

Set a Schedule for Yourself

I’m all too familiar with the “out of sight, out of mind” curse that can lead to procrastination, especially with online courses. Pace yourself with a study schedule so you don’t procrastinate and end up having to rush an assignment five minutes before the due date (I’ve been there too many times to count). Try setting daily or weekly study goals for yourself, and making checklists of what you want to complete and when to help you stay motivated and on track with assignments.

Communicate  with Your Professor and Classmates

Online classes don’t mean zero communication with your professors and classmates. It always helps to have early communication with your professor, and it’s especially helpful when trying to get clarification on the syllabus. For the most part, online courses include some form of peer discussion board in the course. Usually, this means having dialogue with your classmates through discussion postings, and some professors even have a separate discussion forum just for classmates to ask and answer questions for each other. Communicating with your classmates can also be a huge help when you’re stuck on a particularly challenging chapter in your textbook or want to start a study group.

Find a Study Environment That Works For You

“Location, location, location” applies to more than real estate. Just because you won’t be physically in a classroom, don’t think you have to be home alone and huddled around your computer to learn and get work done. If you’re like me, studying is so much easier when you’re in the right environment. I have a hard time studying at home, there are way too many distractions (Netflix is just a click away and my dog always wants me to throw the ball for her every two minutes). So I usually head to a coffee shop or other study spots to tick assignments off my checklist, and of course get my daily caffeine fix.   

Use Campus Resources

Taking online courses doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to get help from your professor or tutors. Most professors will post office hours of when they’re available to meet with their students on campus and welcome them whenever they need help or guidance with the course. This is a useful way to get one-on-one help with any questions you might have on the class material, and it never hurts to make an in-person connection with your professor. Southwestern College also has free in-person tutoring and online tutoring available every semester for a wide variety of topics, such as anthropology and mathematics.