Easy Ways to Get A Head Start on Your Online College Course


Though online college courses are similar to traditional college courses, it can be helpful to take the time to pre-plan the workload. These tips for preparation aren’t very time-consuming and can significantly pay off come graduation.

Get Organized

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to take the time to plan for classes so that the workload doesn’t pile up. Depending on the course and one’s personal preferences, this may take the form of a physical calendar, reminders in a phone, or filling out a planner. It’s important to mark out major deadlines and due dates for the course so that they don’t come as a surprise. Contacting advisors for advice on workload and scheduling goes hand-in-hand with this step.

Set a Reading Schedule

Because there’s no formal task to submit, it’s not uncommon to put less emphasis on reading assignments. However, this can quickly lead to falling behind on the coursework and having to cram weeks of reading into a short period of time. Before the online college courses start, it can help to plan out a week-by-week reading schedule so that the end of the semester isn’t overwhelming.

Learn The System Infrastructure

When taking online college courses for the first time, it’s important to set aside time to learn the system first, especially with more technical courses. This way when the course begins, it’s easier to navigate how to view, upload, and submit assignments. There’s nothing worse than having technical issues mere hours before an assignment is due. Taking the time to learn the system infrastructure before the course begins will prevent late assignments.

Take a Sneak-Peek at the Textbook

The last thing anyone wants to do is read a textbook in their spare time, but this can help considerably in the long run. By simply looking over the table of contents or reading the introductions of chapters, it can be easy to become familiar with the subject matter before the online college course begins. It’s a good way to budget time so that when the topics do come up, there’s already a baseline of knowledge and familiarity with the topic to build on.

4 Tips for Participating in Online Discussion Boards

Discussion boards can play a large role in the online classroom. Posting in a discussion boards can account for a small percentage of final grades or the majority of the course load in online college courses. Once you’re sure online enrollment is right for you, it’s important to have a game plan so that posting is time-effective and worthy of the best grade possible. Follow these four tips for participating in online discussion boards.

Follow the Instructions

This step may seem like a given, but it cannot be overlooked. Taking the time to review the instructions, especially if they’re highly specific or guided, can save time in the long run. This way, there’s no risk of spending a great amount of time writing a post only to realize that it’s unusable because it doesn’t fill the requirements.

Take Notes on the Material while Reading

It would be fantastic if we all had photographic memories of material after reading it, but short of a photographic memory, the next-best thing is to take notes. Jotting down the important information from a class will make writing a post easier, and it will prevent wasting time reading the same content twice.

Get a good understanding of the discussion (at least at first)

There are advantages and disadvantages to posting first and last on online discussion boards. Waiting for others to post lets one see the general tone and topics for the assignment, but it may be difficult to introduce an observation that hasn’t been covered by other students. Most students new to online learning prefer to post in the sweet spot once a few people have posted, but while it’s still early enough to introduce new thoughts to the discussion.

Check for Tone

Though this may seem nit-picky, it’s important to have the right tone when posting on discussion boards. Sometimes the tone is more laid-back and casual, and posts mimic casual real-life conversations. Other times, posts resemble formal essays, often even including introductions and conclusions. It may be beneficial to check the syllabus to see if the instructor has set tone requirements before starting, or simply see how other students are writing.