When students hear "online education," there are typically two reactions: some are happy that their class has suddenly become “easier,” and others are worried that they’ll fall behind in their classes or learn as effectively as in a physical classroom. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. Online courses aren’t a super easy path where you can wear pajamas and get an “A." But I can tell you from personal experience that you can learn just as much and potentially even more when taking an online course. The key is knowing how to thrive in an online environment. 

  1. Have a Routine

Sticking to a routine helps keep us on track. If you’re learning online, time and place can seem pretty unimportant. After all, why does it matter if I work at 3am or if I get everything done in a coffee shop? In truth it doesn’t, except that not having a routine makes it that much easier to slip into bad habits. Suddenly you’re watching TV or texting friends instead of getting your work done. It’s an easy, slippery slope. That’s why it’s important to recreate your in-person class schedule at home by setting up time blocks for each class lecture and study session. It’s kind of like muscle memory – once you have your schedule down, it’s easier to just fall into doing it naturally

  1. Find a Place to Work

Find a place that is solely dedicated to studying and learning. You want to set up a productive environment for you to get your work done. If you let in too many temptations – TV, video games, cell phone, etc. – you’ll procrastinate. Minimize distractions by keeping your work/school space separate from your fun/social spaces.

  1. Actively Participate in Your Learning

Part of the deal with online learning is accepting that you’re in charge. You’re responsible for getting all your assignments done, getting your work in on time, and you’re responsible for participating in the class itself. That’s not to say you don’t do that in a face-to-face class, but an online class has fewer reminders to keep you on track. So, make sure that you participate in those online class discussions. Don’t be shy! Ask questions and make sure you understand why you got problems wrong on the homework. If you want to be successful you have to push yourself to engage in the class and in your learning. If you don’t do it from the beginning of the term, you’ll find it nearly impossible to catch-up come exam time.

  1. Divide Goals into Smaller Tasks

One of the scariest parts of an online class is that EVERYTHING is outlined right in front of you from the very beginning. On day 1 it looks like a ton of work. So, it’s important to begin your online course by dividing everything-- assignments, projects, studying for an exam, etc., into smaller, more manageable tasks. Working on a few problems of your homework every day sounds a lot less intimidating than completing all of the problems in a single day. This method can help you stay more motivated in control of your work.

  1. Reward Yourself!

One of the nice things about a face-to-face class is that it has a start and end, eventually, you have to leave the room. Online courses, while more flexible, can often take up more of your time. It’s important when you’re creating your routine to take small breaks in between tasks. No one can be productive for 8 hours straight. Try setting up a reward system for yourself.  For example, say you complete all your online homework problems, give yourself a 20-minute internet break. Look up news articles, go on Reddit, check out memes on Instagram. That small break will help refresh your mind and keep you more productive in the long run.