“I thought taking online classes would be easy.”

Did you think taking classes online would give you more free time?  Time to do more of what you want.  Some of my students thought because they already loved online tutoring, online high school wouldn’t be any different.   But there is a big difference between working one-on-one or in a small group and taking online classes. To excel at learning in an online high school, you need to be more organized and focused. 

If you lack study routines and time management skills, it’s easier to lose focus and be lazy (especially if you have a large class).  You can sleep later and wait until the last minute before you log-into your class and panic when you don’t get into it on time.  You can be passive and because your teachers have a difficult time seeing your expressions.  Plus, you can be distracted by everything else around you.

The trick to doing well in your classes is to create the right routines, spaces, and habits for learning. Basically you need to recreate high school in your home. 

So, how can you do it?   These  7 tips that will help you thrive in an online high school. 

#1 Select a Study Space

It’s easy to think that because classes are online, you can work and study from any space.  And you can, but there are disadvantages to it.   

  • You find a space with too much noise and traffic from other people.
  • You are visually distracted by things you like to look at (inside the room or outside the room).
  • There are other things you can do in that space (like watch TV).

All these things can disturb your concentration.  Find someplace (either a separate room or separate space) with minimal distractions. Make it a comfortable area, but not too comfortable.  It is the place you’ll spend most of your time studying, writing essays and papers, and taking classes.

#2 Create a Classwork and Study Schedule

Before online classes, it was simpler to set up a schedule because your high school set it up for you.  Now, your classes might be at certain times, but without walking time or being at a place physically, those things are different. You are not at a library or a study period in high school. Those times are now free times for you. 

You can do anything you like during those free times.  In many situations, free time becomes a time for relaxation.  Those times can stretch longer and longer until you have little study/reading/assignment time.  

So how can you combat the desire to relax on your own time?  You transform free time into at-home study hours.    

Schedule research and study periods.  Be detailed about what you will focus on during that time.  For example, “Readings for Chemistry.” 

Research time is a tricky thing to schedule because it is online.  Sometimes that online time can be distracting.  So, make sure you are specific about what you are researching.  Then eliminate social media and other distractions. 

Another piece of advice for scheduling is to add more time for studying, researching, and reading than you think you need.  When you start at the beginning of the academic year, you won’t know the pace at which you do things.   After a few weeks, you’ll have a better sense of how long it takes to accomplish tasks.  Adjust your schedule when you know how you study and work best.

7 Sure-Fire Tip for Taking Online Classes

#3 Use a Timer to Increase Your Focus

Timers work like magic.  They are a way of forcing you to work and keep working during a set number of minutes.  You cannot stop and take a break until the timer goes off.  Then set a timer for your break time.  When your break ends, start again.

My preferred method is to set a timer for 50 minutes of studying, and then set a break time for 10 minutes.  When I come back from my break, I work or study for another 50 minutes. When my timer stops, I take a more extended break (20-25 minutes). I follow this pattern until my work is done.  

A popular method many people use is the Pomodoro technique.  In this case, you set a timer for 25 minutes and take shorter breaks.   Each break is between 5-10 minutes long.    

Experiment with the number of work and break minutes you need.  You can use any timer you like, but one desktop timer I use is https://tomato-timer.com/

Learn more about timers in my blog post, https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/10-terrific-tips-that-will-turn-you-into-a-great-academic-writer/.  

#4 Create and Maintain a Study Habit

A habit is an unconscious action you repeat without thinking about it, like brushing your teeth (or at least I hope that is a habit).  Something triggers a habit.   For me, I get out of bed, and the first thing I do is brush my teeth.  I don’t think about it; I do it.  You can build up habits that serve you well so that you aren’t debating when you should study or write something.   Learn more about study habits in my blog post-   https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/a-comprehensive-tutorial-on-how-to-create-effective-study-habits/.

To create a study habit, select one thing that will have a significant impact on your school success.

  1. Decide what will trigger you to start your study habit.
  2. Do the action (study for 15 minutes in the morning, write and review your planner every morning, write what you learned in a journal, etc.).
  3. Select a reward for when you complete your action for the day.
  4. Repeat this every day so that it becomes automatic.

Then track your progress so you can see how well you’re doing.  Seeing what you achieve encourages you to do more.

#5 Use the Time Between Classes for Studying and Doing Homework

An advantage of taking classes online is that you can maximize the time you have between classes to get something done. None of that time is wasted walking or traveling between classes.

That in-between time adds up; a few 5-minute  or 10-minute breaks could turn into an extra half-hour during the day.  Make the most out of these times by setting up what you will do. 

The easiest thing is to review what you just learned and write down a few notes that will capture those ideas, or add ideas to your notes, and mark them up.  Also, you could review the notes you have for your next class.

Another option is to use that time to study for an exam, but make sure this isn’t the only time you study. 

# 6 Write Notes and Ideas About What You Read For Class

One of the most effective ways to use your time is to write a list of ideas or questions you have about a reading you did for class.  A mistake many people make is to only highlight or underline important ideas.  Take this further by looking at your reading and adding your ideas—connections you have to the text or other topics.

Think of a couple of questions you have about what you read to know what to ask during a class.

#7 Read or Prepare for Assignments 1-2 Days Ahead of Time

I know it’s hard to keep up with all of the reading you do for class,  but see if there topics or subjects you can read about one to two days ahead of time.  If you are reading a novel or textbook, read the next chapter or chapters.

You will have buffer time if something unexpected happens, or you need extra time to study or complete a project.

How to Succeed at Taking Online Classes for High School

Taking online classes is challenging.  But, there are other, more immense challenges we face today.  To succeed in your classes requires planning and some willpower, but the more you set up a system and place routines in your life, the easier it will become. Your classwork, study time, and downtime will balance out.  Plus, you’ll have less stress taking online classes for high school.  It will become a habit and a system that is second-nature to you (and other successful students).

Do you want to add habits to make your daily routine easier and decrease the need for willpower? 

Check out my post, “A Comprehensive Tutorial on How to Create Effective Study Habits,” and become a better student! https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/a-comprehensive-tutorial-on-how-to-create-effective-study-habits/.