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26 Easy Tips for Taking Online Classes

Overwhelmed with school workload? Here are the best and easy tips for taking online classes.

Yuner Gao

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International student studying at night online school

Scheduling time and sleep from the other side of the world can be made easier with some helpful tips and tricks!

Classes are online, assignments have doubled and international students have had to disperse across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Forced to move back to their local countries, or begin college from home, these students have had to deal with a number of logistical hurdles with the biggest one being: differing time zones.

Here are tips for taking online classes. Don’t worry if the sun is not on your side, help is available in many different forms.

In this post:

Tips for Taking Online Classes In Another Time Zone  

1.  Register for schedule-friendly lectures

The first tip for online classes is to try and avoid an inverted week by registering for lectures that take place between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. in your local time. This will require you to do some calculations to choose the best time slot that won’t have you waking up for class at odd hours.

If this is not possible, you may need to reconsider your need for the course at this time – if it’s an elective that you can take in the following semesters, it might be worth postponing it until the Spring semester or next school year.

Many colleges are aware of time zone differences and may also have time slots reserved for international students that you can take advantage of! But, since this may not be the case for every student, there may not be a way around staying up late at night or getting up at the crack of dawn.

2. Have asynchronous classes 

Synchronous classes are of course the best – you can have classes with your classmates and professors at the same time, so you have more of a sense of community. In synchronous classes, you can communicate more smoothly with the professor and have more opportunities to ask questions.

But maybe getting up at 3 a.m. for class every day is not only making the dark circles under your eyes worse, but it’s also making it harder to organize your day. Or why not try taking asynchronous classes? Most colleges offer a hybrid combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes. Trying to communicate with the professor and choosing an asynchronous class may save you a few hours of sleep.

Though in an asynchronous class, you will have less time to communicate with the professor, you can continue to maintain communication through emails with your professor. Remember to log onto your school portal frequently for updates!

If possible, you could also make an appointment with the professor at a mutually appropriate time for private video communication. In short, asynchronous classes can help you maintain a good GPA without losing quality sleep as long as you arrange well. You can do it!

3.  Sleep is your best ally – don’t sacrifice it

Accepting the time zone differences between you and your college is important. One step that can get you closer to functionality is prioritizing your sleep. Psychologists don’t lie when they say sleep is one of the key ingredients to a productive day. 

Keeping track of how many hours of sleep you get in a week can be beneficial in deducing other areas that may be problematic in your schedule. Consider installing sleep tracking apps like Sleep Monitor to get a better idea of your sleep quality.

It can be difficult to have complete control of your sleeping habits, and such apps take note of your sleeping schedule for your benefit! Additionally, it is best to maintain a schedule that does not involve screens an hour before going to sleep.

Because following your natural circadian rhythm may not be possible with a unique schedule, it may be necessary to condition your body to fall asleep. This may require you to plan your social life around your sleep and let others know that you may not be available during the day.

It is also important to keep your sleep and school environments separate, so as not to confuse your circadian rhythm by accidentally falling asleep at night.

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4. Have a good routine

A few of the conditions for good sleep are having a good schedule, plenty of relaxation and time to destress. Taking online classes in different time zones is not an easy task, and students often face both physical and mental pressures. Therefore, a good routine is good for both body and mind. 

So how can you develop good habits? First, try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Second, eat at consistent times throughout each day. What you eat, what you drink and when you eat or drink water can all affect your sleep. Starting with a healthy breakfast each day with a balanced diet can be the best way to improve the quality of your sleep.

Third, make sure you get a good amount of physical activity. Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep! Exercise should be done a few hours before bed, and if you do it right before bed, it will keep your body stimulated and you won’t fall asleep.

5. Establish a distance learning schedule

Nothing is more useful than a distance learning schedule. Using your distance learning schedule to allocate and control your study time could be convenient and inexpensive! It could allow you to keep track of tasks and how long they may take to finish. If you want to get organized and reach your full work and academic potential, create a distance learning schedule for yourself!

This is how you can make one. First, make a list of tasks. Write down the tasks that need to be done. Second, choose how you want to organize your schedule. You can use paper or electronic versions! Each version has its advantages.

The electronic version is easy to build and make major changes to, while the paper version is easy to carry around and make minor changes to. Third, make the schedule as specific as possible. You can break down large tasks into smaller ones so that you can perform them more easily.

Finally, stick to it! Though of course, you can continue to modify your schedule according to your own habits.

6. Create a study space of your own

One of the big drawbacks of taking online classes at home is that you don’t have an environment to focus on. So, try allocating space to focus when studying at home. 

If you don’t have a study, choose a desk or tea table where you can put your laptop and keep your school books. Do not pursue absolute silence, but try to stay away from all entertainment devices, such as the TV, your cell phone, etc. Also, remember to stay away from the bed as much as possible. You don’t want to be falling asleep while studying. 

Keeping your table or desk tidy may also motivate you to use it more often. Remove all unnecessary objects from your vision.

7. Organize and track activities according to your ‘secondary’ time zone

With increased amounts of work to compensate for in-person discussions at lectures and the time zone differences between you and your college, it can be difficult to stay on top of your work.

Therefore, it is important that you are aware of how many hours ahead or behind you are from the rest of your classmates and professor. Consider getting a second clock that displays the time in your college city! You can add another digital clock on your desktop taskbar, hang a clock in your room, or place one on your desk.

Having both clocks could help you keep track of how much time you really have before that assignment or discussion post is due.

A time zone gap of ten hours or more may also mean that classes carry over to the next day. Desktop apps like Notion not only allow you to customize your calendar, but also let you create to-do lists, keep a journal and reading list, and calculate grades.

Finally, don’t forget about daylight savings! Although a desktop clock may update your international time for you, knowing when a time change will take place is crucial to making sure you don’t misinterpret deadlines.

A college student studying in online classes

8.  Let others know

Since international students are a relative minority, even in ethnically diverse colleges, it is important to make your position known to your classmates and professors.

Classes may conduct surveys at the beginning of the term to get an idea of how much of the class is connecting on Zoom internationally. Participate in these surveys and also let your professor know beforehand. This will allow them to be more sympathetic to your situation and understand the reason you might potentially miss a class or miss a due date for an assignment. 

If a class requires you to break into groups or participate in group projects, make sure fellow group members are in similar time zones or are aware of your time difference. This will allow you to coordinate with them more easily and prevent large chunks of time between communication.

9.  Use the time difference to your advantage

If you’re in a country that is significantly ahead of your college city, use this to your advantage. Try conducting activities in the morning or night that you may not usually have time for, such as a long breakfast or lunch, or going for night-time runs.

You can also use this time to be productive and catch up on readings so you don’t fall behind. If an assignment or midterm is on the horizon and you have details on it, don’t wait until it is assigned. Spread out its various components into several days to maximize productivity and maintain your normal sleeping hours.

While your classmates are sleeping, you can be working on the next assignment!

Being away from campus doesn’t mean you’re doomed to missing out on social events. Sign up for online seminars, talks and clubs – you may even make new friends at these events!

Online classes can be difficult without the added challenge of adhering to another time zone. Try to follow these tips for online classes – keep sleep, scheduling, and social activities in check, you will thrive.

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Tips for Taking Online Classes (General)  

10. Take care of your body

At this special moment, maintaining good health is the most important thing. So that you can study at your best. First of all, you must have a regular schedule. Don’t mess up your schedule because you don’t have to go to school. Then you must maintain a healthy diet. Of course, do not skip breakfast or dinner, because you need plenty of good food to provide energy.

Although travel will be restricted during the epidemic, outdoor sports are still possible. You can go for a walk in the morning, or go hiking on the weekend and breathe the fresh air in the wild. Remember to drink plenty of water when studying. The more you relax, the more concentration you are gonna maintain.

Last but not least, sleep is one of the important ways to recharge the body. Especially when you need to catch up with papers and prepare for exams, enough sleep is especially important. You can improve your sleep quality through meditation and other ways.

11. Take Notes

No matter how good your memory is, taking notes is still beneficial and harmless. Especially when you are taking an online class, you can easily get distracted, and taking notes is a good way to concentrate.

Maybe you will feel like it is unnecessary, because the professor may send you slides. But please note that many details will not be displayed on the slides. Taking down detailed notes will also help you review for the exam. The way of taking notes can be set according to your own preferences. You can write it down by hand in a lovely notebook, or you can take notes in a word document.

In addition, if you are not able to take notes in class, you can record a video. Then listen to the lecture after class and take notes.

12. Eliminate Distractions

One of the problems with online classes is that you get a lot of distractions,  especially if you are living with your parents and siblings. A quiet environment is crucial, particularly a designated study area free from outside noise and distractions.

You certainly can’t ask everyone in your family to be quiet for you, but you can ask them to be quiet for a few hours while you study. If you can’t avoid it, you can wear headphones and play some soft music to help you focus.

It’s also important to limit your use of social media. When studying, place your phone in silent mode and keep it far away from your desk to prevent them from distracting you.

13. Remind yourself of deadlines

Taking Online classes makes every student a lone soldier. There is no one to discuss assignments face to face and no one to remind you of the deadline next to you. As a result, you may have missed the deadline carelessly and failed to get a good score.

Be sure to remind yourself of the deadline! Write the deadline on a whiteboard where you can see it, or even set it up as your desktop picture so you can see it all the time. So this requires you to read through the syllabus at the beginning of the class to find out when all the assignments are due. Put this information on your calendar. Also, be aware of changes in deadlines.

In some cases, you can also set an alarm clock to remind yourself of the deadlines.

A college planner with pens and paper

14. Reward yourself

This year is a difficult time for students, and no one has had the same experiences. Although working hard is necessary, taking time to relax is also as important. Learn to take care of yourself so that you can continue to work hard later.

Don’t be too demanding of yourself, because you are worthy of rest after a long study period.

Additionally, you have to learn to reward yourself. After being praised by the professor for your homework, let yourself have time for yourself to do activities in which you find joy.

15. Check Your Email Regularly

Since taking the online class, emailing has become an important communication tool for you. If check emails might have been dispensable in the past, right now you need to take them seriously.

The professors may email you with instructions as well as assignments, such as changing the time of the online class or sending out additional reading materials.

My advice is to check it once in the morning and once in the evening. If you check too often, you may not be able to concentrate. You can check your email in the morning and reply immediately, and then you may check your email in the evening and get a reply from your professor or college department.

16. Communicate with others

It is common that you may not have talked to your old classmates face to face for a long time. But it doesn’t matter, you can still connect to them online! Don’t underestimate the importance of communication, even if it is not face-to-face communication!

You can form a study group with your classmates to urge each other to study and discuss current problems together. If you study with someone, you may even learn more efficiently! 

And it’s not just about studying. When you relax, you can talk with your friends about last night’s football game or the new movie coming out these days. Something to distract you from school work for even just a few minutes. 

17. Increase your interest in taking online classes

I know that some of you may be able, through the strong will, to push yourself to study even if you hate it. But this is not a long-term solution. The real key is to love learning and develop your interest in learning.

Taking online classes can sometimes be quite boring, and that’s understandable. There are many ways you can create a comfortable and exciting study environment for yourself!

Maybe try lighting a nicely scented candle, playing some pump-up music, or making yourself an energizing cup of coffee.

Take the steps to enjoy the unique experience of online learning!

18. Break down tasks

Do you sometimes feel that the workload from online classes has piled up too high? The most efficient way to shorten the pile of work may be to divide the assignments into smaller sections.

When organizing your class assignments, you may take 30 minutes to complete a short assignment and then take a ten-minute break before continuing on to the next assignment. This way, you won’t get burnt out too quickly. 

Take the break time to relax as much as you can — eat a snack or do some physical activity. The small breaks may help clear your mind from any thoughts that were slowing you down! 

19. Manage your time

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re taking online classes at home. Sometimes it feels like time goes by very slowly, and sometimes it feels like time goes by very quickly. Therefore most importantly, you have to learn to manage your time.

To solve this problem, create a clear and workable study plan and stick to it, giving yourself some space and rest to deal with the unexpected. In practice, you can allocate a certain amount of time to each subject. When the time is up, you need to change subjects. This will also help you not procrastinate.

However, it is important to have a weekly schedule with dates highlighted. This will ensure that you set aside enough time to focus on your studies without distractions.

20. Try to solve problems on your own

Because of online classes, you may have to learn to solve problems by yourself. Perhaps for those students who are used to being dependent on others such as their professor to answer all their questions, this is a good opportunity to practice independent learning.

Try to carefully review every document the professor sends. After all, it is not so easy to get a timely reply from a professor. In addition, the syllabus is also important to look at. What you will learn this semester, and how the professor will grade it, can be found in the syllabus.

If you do have a problem, it may be more productive to try to solve the problem yourself by searching it online first. If you can’t get an answer, email your professor without hesitation. And you’d be better off including more than one question in one email!

21. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

While you should learn to solve problems on your own, you should also learn to ask for help when appropriate. Especially if you don’t understand the material or your work is falling behind, talk to the professors as soon as possible.

The longer you wait for help, the longer you fall behind and the worse your test scores will be.

If your professor isn’t offering enough help, look for other resources. Go to your school’s online library, where you can find resources related to your coursework. Another service you might find helpful is the online writing center, which can help you format your essays or even solve grammar problems.

22. Don’t Procrastinate

Taking online classes may make you procrastinate easily. Indeed, focusing on online classes is not as easy as in-person classes. As a result, you’re likely to leave all of your homework to the end of the semester, which is obviously a very painful situation to be in…

So try to give as much time as you can to each subject so you stay on top of your work. Don’t underestimate the workload of online classes. Avoid overscheduling yourself as well!

Also, talk to your advisor if possible. They can help you decide how many online classes fit into your schedule.

23. Back up regularly

When taking online classes, it goes without saying that computers are important. That’s why technology becomes the first and foremost problem. Even the most reliable networks can sometimes be flawed. Back up your work regularly and be prepared for any potential internet connection problems, technical failures or computer crashes.

If possible, try writing documents in an online cloud drive, which will automatically save them in the cloud every few minutes. If your computer breaks down, you will be able to easily access your documents and recover them from another device.

It is always better to prepare for a rainy day than to mend your ways!

A college girl sitting on the side of a river reading a book

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24. Participate in online classes discussions

In online classes, participating in the course discussion may seem indispensable, whether it is answering questions or asking questions. On the one hand, this can help you improve your concentration. On the other hand, it can also get full marks in-class participation.

Participating in online class discussions is one of the few opportunities to talk with professors and classmates at the same time, so don’t miss it.

25. Determine your online studying style

The studying method of every person is different. Each person has a different way of taking online classes. Some people study better by reading, some people prefer to listen, and some people need visual stimulation.

Knowing what type of learner you are will help make your online classes more effective. Remember, the specific way your professor chooses to teach online does not mean that this is your only choice. Recognize your needs and you will become more efficient than ever before!

26. Set your goals

Goal setting is majorly important. If you set them ahead of time, you will be more likely to achieve them in the end. It’s normal to let your mind wander a lot, but as long as you have a goal, you won’t detract from your fundamental goal too far.

Focus on the big picture, remember why you chose to study in the first place, and keep your passion in your mind. Every time you take a step, you are one step closer to achieving your dreams.

The belief that you will achieve your goal is always with you, and you must bring it with you to complete the task, whether it’s taking notes on a 2-minute educational video or doing research for a paper.

Check out this video on studying with online classes!

That’s a wrap. This article was all about tips for taking online classes.

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