Doing Well In School While Taking Classes Online

By Dr. Kenneth Manges Prompted by two law students and an article in the August 16th New York Times, “College at Home, Don’t Panic” I thought a message about learning via the Web might be of some help to parents and students.

My thoughts and research findings follow. Be available to engage your parents as your ally. Be ready to give your child some consideration about how they learn best. Both students and parents would be helped to schedule a weekly review to speak with each other and see how things are going. Because learning on line is different than socializing on line, if a student is struggling, a parent, if affordable, might want to hire a coach for their child to enhance the on line learning experience.

  • Be prepared, not only for the class but the environment in which you will be online.
  • Set up a room or space in another room for the learning to take place, outside of distractions from other family members, television or pets.
  • Post a public write on board where scheduled tests or important projects can be listed. Have markers or stickers or colors represent the more important dates so others in the household can be supportive.
  • Two minutes before each class, sit at your desk or table top and swivel your monitor 360 degrees to check out the background for anything embarrassing.
  • Practice with a friend and do a “Share Screen” so that when you do a Zoom presentation you don’t accidentally share your emails or personal screensavers when you later present to the class.
  • Don’t forget how to mute the voice, video, as well as not to have pop ups or email notifications showing up in the corner of your screen.
  • You can expect to have a lack of focus, despite your best efforts. To say focused, have a pen and paper to write what is being discussed and USE THEM every 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Know your computer keyboard: press “Control + F” or “Command + F” in your notes or online textbook to quickly find an answer. Try some searches of key terms that may come up in class.
  • Be sure you know how to send a private message or a blasting to the whole class and don’t confuse the two.

Here are some other tips

Tip 1: Avoid distractions

  • Keep the distractions to a minimum. Put a DO NOT DISTURB note on the door and close the door!
  • If you have a pet, keep it out of the room.
  • If you have your cell phone, and who wont, put it on silent.
  • Clear your work space of other distractions and keep a bottled water available.

Tip 2: Balance school and fun at home

  • Do prepare by knowing what is expected in the course.
  • Use the time between courses to review and exercise, not just with your wrists on a video game.
  • Zoom school will be very competitive. Spending all day indoors, slouched at your desk, staring at a screen or a note book is terrible for your stress levels.
  • Take time out to do things that make you happy.
  • Get outside, take an online yoga or exercise class, lift some weights, try baking a bread, read some fiction, walk or bike around the block.
  • While catching a movie on line might sound like a good break, think twice, too much screen time is still too much screen time.
  • Engage with others. Plan on a virtual study group of no more than 5 buddies. See if you can sign up for some student organizations to make some new friends.
  • Try bonding with classmates during class by cracking jokes, if allowed during breaks and sharing links to articles in the Zoom chat.

Tip 3: Beyond the now

Being on line has its advantages and disadvantages.

If you haven’t connected with your teacher, give it a try. Drop in during their virtual office hours or set up a time to chat with them one on one.

It’s easy to forget, but teachers are people, too. You may be asking your teacher for a letter of recommendation. So, you want them to get to know you now.

I sincerely hope that school will resume in person. But even so, some classes may continue to be remote. Prepare yourself, whether its virtual or face to face school is a marathon—not a sprint. Take your time, be flexible and enjoy the experience.

Dr. Ken Manges has taught Forensic Psychology on line and has taught graduate psychology courses at college as well. He brings 40+ years of experience in understanding how people learn and what obstacles they may put in their own way. If you are student and would be helped to speak with Dr. Manges about your learning experience, and have insurance, your plan may cover that service. Check with the insurance carrier about coverage and give Dr. Manges at call at (513) 784-1333 or email him at to arrange for a consultation.