online study photo

March 25, 2020

Tips for online course success include communication, effort

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The COVID-19 pandemic has altered educational delivery systems at many universities, including Southern Illinois University Carbondale – as well as elementary, middle and secondary schools. 

For many students, this is the first time for study and schoolwork outside a classroom for an extended period. Benjamin Bradley, a graduate assistant in the Center for Teaching Excellence, has some strong suggestions for mastering these online courses. 

A master’s student in history from Middletown, Ohio, Bradley earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and history from SIU Carbondale and was a student manager for the Saluki men’s basketball team. He has taken multiple online courses and said “they are what you make of them.” 

“If you put in the effort, you can certainly learn a lot,” Bradley said. 

Communication is still key 

Bradley said communication between students and their professors, teaching assistants and teachers is essential for success. He notes that many faculty are also worried on how the transition to online course delivery will work, so having a conversation can put everyone at ease. It is also important for students to understand their classes and whether professors will live stream a lecture that students must attend or have the flexibility to work at their own pace. 

 The best time for working on assignments

Some professors might put more than one week of assignments on-line at a time. Bradley suggests if a student has free time and feels confident in the assignments, it’s best to work ahead.

“I try to keep the same schedule I had as an on-campus student,” said Bradley, who is a teaching assistant for the Digital History Podcasting Internship. “Online classes can slip out of your mind though, so be sure to set reminders in your phone or leave sticky notes to remind yourself when things are due.”

Study habits

Bradley notes that students taking on-line classes need more discipline and self-control. Already being online makes it that much easier to check Twitter or Facebook, but the internet also allows students to find more information on topics related to their courses.

“I personally still take notes by hand just to try and reduce that distraction,” he said. “It’s tempting to open a new tab and take a 5-minute break, but how many 5-minute breaks turn into 50-minute breaks? Instructors can tell if you waited to the last minute.”

For SIU students who want face-to-face interaction or to form study groups, he suggests finding a class list on D2L through Salukinet and email others in your class, or ask the professor or teaching assistant to set up something more formally.

Bradley emphasized that students should utilize teaching assistants if they have them, noting that TAs are also in the same boat. For TAs looking for guidance, Bradley said the Center for Teaching Excellence has tips to help students.