I was nervous before taking my first online class because I didn’t know how I was going to manage my busy schedule. I was juggling volleyball practices and games, travel, my social life, and finding time to sleep! For traditional college classes, my professors would review the syllabus in class and highlight assignment deadlines and exam dates. Not so for online classes!  Now I had to work at my own pace and hold myself accountable. I will admit, I learned hard lessons involving online classes regarding deadlines, staying ahead of my reading assignments, and weekly discussion post for my classmates; but the classes sharpened me into a better student and prepared me for graduate school. I’ve created five strategies students can use to survive online classes:

Read the syllabus a week before classes start

Usually, the professor will provide the syllabus in advance. Read the syllabus twice so you understand the objectives and format of the class. Some online classes require discussion post, quizzes, or require more reading than traditional classes. Some weeks are easier than others, so plan in advance and write down all of your deadlines. If you’ve never used a planner, start now! It will become your best friend. Figure out what weeks will be more hectic and plan how you’ll budget your time. Your online class will be a major priority, and your professors will have expectations for you to complete the coursework on time. One thing that helped me, I took some of my online classes with my teammates and friends, so the coursework seemed less intimidating, and there’s strength in numbers!

Make a study plan

Set aside an hour a day for your online class. If you don’t have that much time to spare during the week, try 15 minutes four or five times a day. Also, focus on course reading and discussion posts first thing in the morning so they’re not forgotten. I was juggling so many other things for volleyball and social events I had to use my time management skills and create a schedule that worked for me. Currently, I use my Sunday nights to get myself ready for the week. I make sure I know which chapters I’m reading and analyzing for my discussion post. I read the questions my professor wants the class to answer and review my schedule.

Jump ahead 

The beauty of online classes is that you can pace yourself and have the option of working ahead. It helped me when my team had to travel, and I wouldn’t get back on campus until late Saturday night. I made sure I had all of my chapters and articles read and assignments turned in to avoid more stress. That way, with the exception of discussion posts, you don’t have to wait for everyone else in the class. Shift your workload around, and you’ll see how much free time you’ll have on your hands.

Get rid of distractions

When I’m finishing up my school work, I usually go to Scooters or UNO’s library because my apartment has so many distractions. Before I know it, I’m watching an episode of Law and Order SVU and mindlessly eating my weight in chips; yelling at the TV, “come on Benson!” Then I slowly find myself reaching for my phone to check my Instagram feed. Outside of my apartment, I feel more focused and ready to tackle my homework. I’ve figured out what distracts me from my online work and eliminated it.

Ask for help

My last piece of advice – if you’re struggling and falling behind –always ask for help. Your classmates and professor will help you succeed. Also, many colleges have tutoring and writing help on campus that can help work through and perfect your assignments and essays. It is not every man or woman for themselves, but the first step requires you to ask.