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Tips, Strategies, and Expectations for Success in Online Classes

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

When you are adjusting to your courses to a new, remote/online format, try to:

  • Be patient with yourself, your peers, and your instructors – during this time, things may feel unknown, disrupted or out of control. Know that it is normal to feel this way, and we will get through this time together.

  • Practice self-care – allow time for planned breaks, adequate sleep, eating, exercise, and stress relief.

  • Be open to adjusting your plans – you may need to change your study habits slightly, and revising a plan may help you feel a little sense of control.

Time management and self-discipline are critical to your success in an online course.

  • Set aside the same days and times to dedicate to your online course time, as if it meets face-to-face. For example, if you are enrolled in a three-credit online course, schedule “class time” Monday, Wednesday, Friday 2:00PM – 3:00PM. This will help you set boundaries around other commitments you have (other courses, work, personal obligations, etc.).

  • You are expected to be active in the course each day – create a time schedule to stay on track.

  • For every credit hour you are enrolled, you should devote 2-3 hours of outside of class time each week to prepare, study, and complete the assignments. For example, you will need 9-12 hours each week dedicated to study time for a 3-credit hour course.

  • Avoid multitasking and distractions – Minimize all other tabs and windows from your computer, and try apps such as Flora to help stay away from your phone and remain focused on the task.

  • Allow time for study breaks – this will help you retain the information and relieve stress.

Stay organized:

  • Consult all of your course syllabi – note which portions of the class are changing in regards to lectures, labs, assignments, exams, etc. and what are their updated formats.

  • Write in a planner any changed due dates for remaining exams, papers, homework assignments, etc. for the semester.

    • Set a schedule in your planner by dividing exams and assignments into smaller tasks over a longer period of time. For example, plan studying for an exam at least one week prior by dividing the content into chunks to study, self-test, and review each day.

    • Prioritize tasks by order of importance and check/cross them off as you accomplish them.

      • Check your Blackboard pages and MCPHS University email multiple times per day so that you do not miss important updates, as email is the official form of communication at the University.

    • Blackboard and Outlook for email are both free to download to your smartphone. Set up alerts/notifications to see them as soon as they are available.

      • Continue to take lecture notes as you would if you were taking the course in person.

Utilize the resources that are available to support your success:

  • Instructor “office hours” – your instructors for online courses may offer support via email or a phone appointment to answer questions, clarify assignments, and provide feedback on your academic performance. However, respect time boundaries and be patient when waiting for a response. For example, it may be highly unlikely to expect a response when messaging a faculty member late at night before an assignment is due.

  • University Learning Network – the Writing Center, Math & Physics Center, English Language Resource Center, Professional Tutoring, and TutorMe (increased to 10 hours per week) are all available online and free of charge to help you understand the course concepts.

  • Your peers – reach out to the other students taking the course to form virtual study groups and accountability partners.

Physical space/Surroundings: You will need to set up a workable space or find a location that you can be productive in, during your classwork time. Consider creating a sign that you can display during your worktimes to indicate to family, etc. that you although you are physically present, you are mentally engaged in work and unavailable. Respecting boundaries is key and you need to establish them so you can be productive. Remember, that your bed is not a good work space location. You need good lighting to help mitigate eye strain and try to

find a place that is quiet, distraction free.

Confirm or Secure Internet access: What if you do not have reliable Wi-Fi at home? Can you use your local library? Are there other places available to you that do not have large crowds? Whatever your situation, communicate with your professors upfront to find a solution, and you can also contact the Office of Student Affairs for this type of support as well. Additionally, some internet providers are providing students with free 30-60 day trials to help during this time.

Get the Tools: You may need a few tools to ensure that you can access and participate in online learning. A good set of headphones, a microphone, speakers and a web camera are some of the suggestions. If you have these, great. If not, can you borrow them from a friend or family member? If not, purchasing might be an option but do not feel like you have to spend money. If you do not have a tool that is needed, communicate with your professor to see about a work around solution. You will need a way to ask questions and to communicate, so think creatively and help your professors problem solve. Maintaining flexibility is key.


Check out some of these apps that could help!

Windows options:

  • Microsoft Sticky Notes

  • Cold Turkey

  • Wunderlist

Mac options:

  • Stickies

  • Self Control

Web-based options:

  • Google Calendar

  • Stay Focused

iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch options

  • MyHomework app

  • Timetable app

  • Finish app

  • 30/30 app

  • Reminders

For more ideas, check out “Getting Good Grades with Gadgets” at


Sources: Adjusting to an Online Learning Environment, University of Texas, University of Michigan, MCPHS University Academic Planner, & MCPHS University Online Expectations

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