College Preparation Checklist For Online Students – Forbes Advisor

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Getting ready to start an online college course? You’re not alone. In 2020, more than 19 million college students across the country started classes in the fall, 14.1 million of whom were enrolled in online courses.

It might just take a few quick clicks of the mouse to get to your online class, but it’s important to give yourself more time than that to ensure a successful virtual return to school. Scroll through our college preparation checklist below to get the school year started right.

Before You Begin Online Classes

Check Your Internet

To make sure your internet is fast enough for whatever online platform your school uses, head to SpeedTest. Programs like Zoom offer test meeting spaces, and GoToMeeting has a system check you can run as well.

Get To Know Your Technology

Before the first day of online school, set up your online accounts and passwords with your university’s platform (such as Canvas or Google Classroom) so that logging in is a breeze once classes start.

If your technological savvy stops at sending an email or a quick text message, never fear: Online learning can still be accessible.

Step one is getting to know your new favorite study buddy, your computer. If you’re working with an Apple computer, check out this video: Mac Tutorial: First Time Users. For the PC crowd, there’s also a Windows 10 Tutorial for Beginners. And if you feel completely overwhelmed with technology, there’s a Computer Basics Tutorial to help you get up to speed.

Once you’ve gotten to know your way around a laptop, you should get comfortable navigating whatever learning management system (LMS) your school is using. The LMS is where you’ll find all your assignments, syllabi, important class information and maybe even live class sessions.

Popular learning management systems include Canvas, Blackboard and Google Classroom. This How To Use Blackboard: A Student Tutorial video is targeted at remote, at-home learners. If your school is using Canvas, this Canvas Training For Students may come in handy. The Student Guide To Google Classroom offers a nice, breezy intro to the G Suite for Education.

Remember, technology might have hiccups or even outright fail at the worst times. Make sure to back up your work, just in case. Even popular learning management systems like Canvas, Blackboard and Google Classroom have slow days or even briefly shut down.

If this happens, or if you have other issues with your school’s technology infrastructure, you can reach out to your school’s technology department for assistance.

Access the Course Syllabus

And don’t forget to read the course syllabus before the first day of classes. Your professor should provide important information there about technology requirements, class expectations, assignments, deadlines and more.

During Your First Week of Online Classes

Check Your Audio and Video

There’s nothing worse than your video freezing mid-answer or not hearing your professor deliver crucial information that will be on the next exam. To avoid this potential nightmare, test your video and audio on Zoom, Google Meet or GoToMeeting.

Log In On Time

While the commute from your bed to your desk might be minimal, logging in on time can still impact your grade. Your teacher might also give points for having your camera on or participating in class discussions. Check your class syllabus to be sure.

Consider putting your questions in the chat or waiting until after class

Just like in real life, etiquette also exists in the online classroom. Consider putting your questions in the chat or waiting until a designated time to ask questions verbally.

Platforms like Zoom let you press an icon so you can virtually raise your hand to let your instructor know you have a question or comment. You can also choose to only send questions privately to the professor in the chat instead of the whole class if you prefer.

After An Online Class

Reach Out to the Instructor

Don’t hesitate to contact your professor after class if you have questions or concerns. Their email should be listed in the class syllabus. They might even offer online office hours.

Talk to classmates

You can connect with classmates by chatting with them privately and exchanging email addresses. Virtual coffee and study sessions, anyone?

Look Ahead

Make sure to set up reminders on your online calendar for all your assignment deadlines and upcoming tests.
It may seem daunting to tackle school alone from your home, but with a bit of planning, online learning can be as effective as in-person education. Even though school is about to start, you can prepare by crossing off each item on our online college checklist—and still have time to relax before that first online meeting. You’ve got this.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Classes

What do you do on your first day of an online class?

Just like in a brick-and-mortar classroom, this depends on the instructor. Expect to get to know your professor, introduce yourself to your classmates, review the syllabus and maybe even start diving into the material and assignments on day one.

How do you stay productive in online classes?

Make a plan for success by noting deadlines and reminders in a digital planner like myHomework or iStudiez Pro. If you prefer an old-school approach, consider a paper planner.

What are the challenges of online learning?

Online learning can be challenging due to a lack of motivation, low digital literacy, technology issues, no in-person interaction and an absence of accommodations for students with special needs. If any of these apply to you, consider contacting your school or professor before school starts (or even before you enroll) to brainstorm solutions ahead of time.


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