Congratulations—you have survived approximately five months of a global pandemic! At this point, most of us have adjusted to wearing masks and practicing social distancing, but now we are preparing to face a new challenge: an entire semester of online classes. Most of us finished out the last few months of the spring semester in quarantine, so we are used to the Zoom interface and what is expected of us. However, starting the semester online proposes a whole new set of obstacles to overcome. This is a guide to help you make the most out of your semester and be successful in your classes, even if you must do so from your own home.
First, attend classes. This one seems kind of obvious, right? But I don’t mean just log in to your 8 a.m. class and go back to bed; I mean that you need to actually engage in the class material. Last semester, I attended every single one of my zoom classes that were held after the break. However, my grades still slipped, and I didn’t feel like I learned much in the second half of the semester. Part of this was because of the unexpectedness and lack of preparation, but I also know that most of it was my own fault. It was easy for me to log into my class and then scroll through Instagram, clean the house, or do dishes while I only partially paid attention to my professors. Ultimately, when it came down to exam time, I had shot myself in the foot. I encourage you to avoid this situation. Go to class, yes—but get out of bed, put your phone away, and engage. Ask questions and take notes. You will be responsible for your own learning experience this semester, so it’s up to you to make sure that you won’t fall behind.
Second, it’s important for you to make connections within your classes. It’s hard to remember that there are real people behind all of the names on your screen, but everyone is in the same boat that you are. Send an email to your professor to introduce yourself; this will help them associate with you as a person, rather than a set of grades on their screen. Message your classmates to ask if they want to study or work on homework. Having multiple perspectives on a topic will be useful if you come across something that you don’t understand, and having study buddies will hold you accountable for turning in your work and learning the material. It’s hard to make friends remotely. However, knowing people within your classes could be the difference between a passing and failing grade.
Lastly, I encourage you to set aside time each week to not only complete homework, but also study your course material, to make sure that you are really understanding what is being presented. Check your Canvas regularly to ensure that you have completed your assignments. Stay ahead of your work, and make sure that you understand what is happening. It’s easy to google answers and turn in passing work, but if you don’t know how you got your answers, you won’t learn anything. The farther you go into the semester, the harder everything is going to get, so put in the work early to understand the material.
Overall, we are all facing a new challenge with online classes this semester, and we are all doing the best we can to make it through. Do the best you can, but be easy on yourself when you mess up—it happens. This fall will be a true test of your self-discipline, and only you can control your learning experience. So stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and have a great semester!