Tutoring and Testing: Navigating your online courses

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Jessica is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program at NSU. She works as an academic success coach at the Tutoring and Testing Center.

One of the most common things that I hear as an academic success coach at the Tutoring and Testing Center is that students who are new to online classes feel like they can’t grasp the information unless someone is lecturing them in the traditional sense. Though I know it can seem daunting at first, it isn’t impossible to get the hang of. Here are a couple of themes that I’ve noticed from speaking with new online learners that, if addressed, can alleviate some of the challenges and stressors associated with online classes.

Learn to navigate the webpages

When first starting out, I recommend clicking every button you can to figure out what information is placed where on the site. This will also help you figure out how to turn in your assignments, how to take tests and how to contact your professor or classmates via blackboard. Exploring the web pages should be a relatively quick process which will ultimately help you get acquainted much more readily with the materials that have been posted.

Become one with your syllabus

Once you know where all the information is placed, take a look at your syllabus. Online classes can be little bit more challenging than traditional courses which are taken in-person because the professors will likely not be providing weekly reminders about what is due each week. Make sure that you are familiar with what is due and when, because it is really easy to forget that you have assignments when you’re not sitting in class talking about them three times a week.

Prepare to do a lot of reading

Understand clearly that you’ll need to read your textbook quite often. You should probably be reading for your traditional setting classes anyway, but if you’re the type to forego the book, you might have a particularly difficult time in an online class. Yes, reading can be tedious. Yes, it is not always the most exciting material in the world. But, I promise you that reading the textbook will help you feel like you have a handle on the information from your class that you otherwise might not have been so comfortable with. Online classes are particularly effective for the students who do not wait to be told which section of which chapter to read. If you read it all, the posted PowerPoints or lecture slides should be a supplement to the information you’ve already learned.

Perfect your time management skills

It is important to be organized with your time and your assignments. Just because you aren’t asked to sit in a classroom for three hours a week doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be putting in roughly the same amount of time to your online course. Make sure you have allotted enough time to learning the material, and moreover, that you have allotted time in your schedule to work on assignments. Keep on top — and even ahead — of the due dates, and I’m certain you won’t feel as overwhelmed as you otherwise might have.

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