Five tips for getting the best learning experience from Metro State’s online classes

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January 14 2021

Staff Editor

Spring Semester 2021 is here and online classes are here to stay. Most universities (including Metropolitan State University) have officially made the switch to online-only classes for Spring Semester 2021—with very few exceptions. Not every Metro State student, however, can learn in an online setting. Many students still prefer to learn in person rather than through an online platform and video lectures. 

Unfortunately, we’re still living through a pandemic and in-person classes are not a safe option. Online courses can be beneficial if you take them with the right mindset and the necessary tools. They offer flexibility for working students, students with children, and those with disabilities. Online courses can save you money and allow you to learn from anywhere.

Still, they come with their own set of challenges and obstacles to overcome. For the students who’ve spent their college career avoiding them—here are five tips for getting the most out of online classes.

  1. Remove any potential distractions.

Similar to working from home, going to school from home requires your full attention. If it’s possible, find a room in your house (with a door) that offers privacy so you can work in peace. Animals and children are adorable but they aren’t conducive to an ideal learning environment. 

Don’t forget to put your phone on silent. It can be tempting to scroll through Twitter during a Zoom lecture but it won’t help you learn. Stick your phone in a desk drawer and let your friends/family know that you’re available for emergencies only!

  1. Do the assigned readings.

It seems silly but you do need to do the assigned readings for online courses. There’s less interaction between the student and the professor, which means more of the heavy lifting regarding the material is on the student. Not every professor is going to have ready-made handouts related to the weekly readings.

This is a good time to mention that you shouldn’t be reading academic texts as if they’re novels, even if they’re written like one. and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill offer handy guides for academic reading. 

Also, invest in a large stack of sticky notes. You won’t want to be desperately flipping through your texts when it’s time to test.

  1. Participate!

Being present in an online class can be tricky. The same tactics for engaging in an in-person class can’t always be applied to online courses. 

Participation in online courses looks different depending on the type of online course. For Zoom classes, there may be a portion of the call dedicated to discussion. If that’s the case, discuss. Interact with your classmates and your professor. Be a part of the conversation.

For many online courses, participation takes the form of a weekly discussion board. Students make a post responding to a weekly prompt made by the professor and other students are required to comment on it. For these types of discussions, you get the most out of them by engaging with your fellow students (just like the Zoom courses). 

Don’t respond with “wow” or “that’s interesting” when responding to your classmates. Those responses aren’t going to fly with your professor, and they don’t help you or your classmate learn from each other. 

Just like with in-person courses, you get the most out of online courses when you engage in discussions with some critical thinking. Participation may look different from course to course, but being an active participant is vital to learning.

  1. Use the resources that Metro State offers.

Metro State offers advantages in online learning, as it is already geared towards accessibility and flexibility. Its diverse student population means that there are several resources available for students, ranging from a service portal for technology issues to tutoring and writing assistance. Many of their services have been adapted to an online setting. 

Desire2Learn, Metro State’s online platform, has a support page with tutorials on getting started with D2L and a way to contact their support team. At the bottom of the D2L homepage, several links offer tips for navigating D2L.

It’s helpful to know that Metro State offers a variety of resources and ways to contact their staff. You don’t have to suffer technology issues or academic struggles, even if those struggles are from in your own home. For a full list of Metro State’s resources, visit their website.

  1. Reach out to your professors if you’re struggling.

The most important thing to remember when taking online courses is that you aren’t alone. On the other end of D2L or a Zoom call is a professor whose job is to help you learn. They want you to succeed.

If you’re struggling in a course, reach out to your professor. Tell them what you’re struggling with (be specific). They aren’t going to call you stupid or force you to drop the course. In most cases, they’re going to work with you to fix the problem—whether that means giving you an extension on a paper or setting you up with a tutor. 

Online courses aren’t for everyone. They’re a nice option for Metro State students who need a more flexible schedule, but they require different tactics if you’re going to get the most from them. Keep these tips in mind while you navigate this online academic world and set your schedule for the spring.