How to Prepare for Online Classes

Be Organized Before You Learn Online

It is very easy to learn just about anything online nowadays. Sign up with a few clicks, and you are good to go. Or are you? You can't take it lightly, and many online students drop out because they weren't quite ready to go to school seriously. As with in-person classes, you have to be prepared. The following five tips will help you get organized and committed to succeeding as an online student.

01
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Set High, SMART Goals

A man on his couch celebrates something on his laptop screen

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Michelangelo said, "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." If you think about that sentiment as it relates to your own life, the thought is pretty stunning. What are you capable of doing that you haven't even tried?

Set your goals high and reach for them. Dream! Dream bigger! Positive thinking can help you get what you want, and people who write down SMART goals are more likely to achieve them.

02
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Get a Datebook or App

Hands writing in a planner at a local coffee shop

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Whatever you want to call yours—a calendar, datebook, planner, agenda, mobile app, whatever—get one that works the way you think. Find a datebook or app that fits your lifestyle, fits in your bookbag if it's not digital, and accommodates all of your activities. Then stick to it.

You can get datebooks or organizers in small, medium, and large sizes, formatted with daily, weekly, or monthly pages, and stuffed with extras like note pages, "to do" pages, address sheets, and sleeves for business cards, to name only a few. Online apps have all the same things in digital versions.

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Schedule Study Time

A man working on his laptop in his kitchen office

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Now that you have a great organizer, schedule time in it for studying. Make a date with yourself, and don't let anything else take priority, unless, of course, someone's safety is at risk. Put it on your calendar, and when you receive an invitation to go out for dinner with friends, you're sorry but you're busy that night.

This works for exercise time, too. In this world of instant gratification, we need discipline to meet our SMART goals. A date with yourself helps you stay on track and committed. Make dates with yourself, prioritize them, and keep them. You are worth it.

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Adjust the Size of Your Screen Font

A woman looks over her glasses at her laptop screen

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If you can't read the material, you won't succeed at learning online or in person. Nontraditional students over 40 usually have trouble with their vision. They might juggle several pairs of glasses, each designed to see at different distances.

If one of your struggles is reading your computer screen, you shouldn't need to buy a new pair of glasses. Instead, you can change the font size of your screen with a simple keystroke.

Increase Text Size: Press Control and + on a PC, or Command and + on Mac.

Decrease Text Size: Simply press Control and - on a PC, or Command and - on Mac.

05
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Create Study Spaces

A student studying at a library workstation

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Create a nice, cozy study space for yourself with everything you need to focus on work: computer, printer, lamp, room to write, beverages, coasters, snacks, a closed door, your dog, music, and whatever makes you comfortable and ready to learn. Some people like white noise. Some like perfect quiet. Others need roaring music. Discover where you like to study and how you like to learn.

Then make another one somewhere else. Okay, not the same kind of space, because few of us have that kind of luxury, but have in mind some other places where you can study. Research shows that varying your study space helps you remember because you associate the space with the learning activity. If you always read in the same place, there are fewer distinguishing factors to help you recall.

Various study spaces, plural, streamline getting work done no matter where you are, how you're feeling, or what time of day it is. Do you have a porch? A quiet reading rock in the woods? A favorite chair in the library? A coffee shop down the street?

Happy studying!