How to Prepare For an Online Class

Female learner on her computer


Online education offers a flexible option for earning a degree or completing a certificate. Since your organization is providing you access to these top-tier online programs, we want to equip you with the tools you need to be successful. 

Trust us, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to go to online school! With the following tips on how to prepare for an online class, you’ll be able to confidently and successfully navigate your online education journey.  


1. Ensure you have the proper technology 

You’ll need a laptop or desktop with a reliable internet connection to access your online classes - you can always head to your local library or coffee shop to use the free Wi-Fi available if high speed internet isn’t in your budget. Note that using a smartphone and/or tablet while on the go is a great option, just be aware that certain assignments and class activities may require a laptop. 

In addition to obtaining internet access, you’ll want to ensure your computer meets the minimum spec requirements necessary for taking online classes. The specs listed below are usually sufficient for online learning, but you’ll want to check with your school since the course management system (CMS) your classes will be hosted on may have different requirements. [1] 

  • Windows XP or Windows 7 or later/OS 10.6 or later

  • MS Office 2007 or later, Office 2008 (for MAC) or later

  • Internet Explorer 8.0 or later, Firefox 3.6 or later, Google Chrome 7.0 or later, Safari 5.0 or later

  • Anti-virus program (this should be updated regularly)

  • Computer microphone and speakers (ensure they work before class starts)

  • Web camera

Headphones will also be important to have when listening to online lectures or discussions, especially if you’ll be studying in a public place. 

In addition to your computer, check your class syllabus for any necessary books and materials you may need to reference, such as downloadable PDFs and academic journal articles. 

Finally, login to your online learning system before your first class! It’s not uncommon for students to miss a significant part of their first class because of technical issues. Avoid this by logging in and, if necessary, troubleshooting ahead of time. 


2. Create a physical study space

If you don’t have an office in your home, there are plenty of other spaces where you can set up shop. Your kitchen table, a closet turned into an “office” or a favorite reading chair with a side table can work well if you prefer or need to stay at home to study - as long as they’re distraction-free areas.

However, if you do focus better in an environment outside of your home, head to a local coffee shop, a bookstore or your public library - just make sure that there’s a high-speed internet connection so you won’t have any trouble accessing your class. 


3. Manage your time wisely

 While having the flexibility to create your own schedule is very appealing when taking online classes, keep in mind that there will still be deadlines you need to plan for, such as assignment due dates, exams and possibly live Q&As or discussions for certain classes. Therefore, if you don’t manage your time wisely, it can be easy to fall behind.

The amount of time you need to set aside for each class will depend on various factors, including the number of assignments, frequency of tests and number of credit hours. While every individual will develop their own custom way of managing time, the following general tips will provide a strong foundation to start with:

  • Use a planner. A few weeks before school starts, fill in your work schedule, class times and any other commitments, such as weddings and vacations. Look at the syllabus at the start of the semester and mark all major assignments in your planner. 

  • Every week, create a schedule by filling in open pockets of time in your planner. Schedule time for the various aspects of school, such as reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying and participating in forums. Set reminders for yourself to complete your weekly tasks. 

  • Check in each month to assess what’s working and what isn’t. Do you need to dedicate more time to doing assignments each week? If you fall asleep reading in bed at night, is there a time earlier in the day you can read? Make any necessary adjustments and reassess the next month.  

4. Get organized

 Get organized from the beginning by having a bookmark management system. This will enable you to bookmark your class dashboard and all relevant materials and websites so you can easily access them when needed. A few of the most common tools students use are Evernote, Notion and One Note since they all have a native bookmark capturing tool that’s user-friendly.

Also create a folder system on your computer that consists of a main folder for the academic year, separate folders for each semester and a folder for each class within each semester. Save each assignment with the name and date so you’ll be able to quickly find what you need.

Create a separate folder for school in your email as well so you can save any important correspondence that may be needed for future reference.


5. Be an active participant

Collaboration with your professor and fellow students is a huge part of online learning. Establish a habit of regularly checking and participating in any forums or class discussion threads, ideally once a day. Ask questions and engage with fellow classmates about course material, comment on a fellow classmate’s assignment and read comments from other students and your professor. 

If you have a question or situation that’s more personal or that you don’t want to share in a group format, don’t be afraid to email your professor directly. 

Being an active participant in your class, rather than a passive learner, will help you to build relationships with other students, create a type of virtual study group and be successful.  


6. Create a Personal Support Group 

If you feel comfortable, let family, close friends and coworkers know about your exciting decision to go back to school. Not only will it prepare them to expect a change in your schedule and priorities, but it will create the personal support system and accountability you need to stick with this commitment and be successful. 

Follow the above tips and you’ll be well on your way to succeeding in the online learning world! 

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