Tips for Success in Online Courses This Summer
By Leigh Perkins | Last Updated: May 20, 2020
Thinking about enrolling in summer school? Smart choice! Taking summer classes is a great way to stay on track in college or get ahead academically. If your GPA or credit hours are not where you want them to be, enrolling in distance classes over summer break also can help you catch up or make up a credit. Follow our tips for success in online courses this summer and you’ll be set to squeeze as much as possible out of college summer school.
Honor the Class with Your Presence
You won’t get an engraved invitation, but do yourself the favor of logging in on the first day. If you think nothing important will happen the first week of class, summer is different. And online is different times two. The instructor will likely get all instructional right off the bat.
Yes, some professors do take attendance for remote classes when there is a mandatory live section of the course. But most online college courses are asynchronous, or self-paced, so you watch lectures on demand whenever you feel like it. Problem is, you might not feel like it very often, especially when the social element of being on campus is absent. Do it anyway. You will learn so much more, and your presence will be reflected in your grade, even if attendance is never taken.
- Top attendance tip: Log in early and often, not just when you have an assignment due. This is essential to your comprehension of the material, and it also prevents you from being blindsided by a last-minute addition to the syllabus or a pop quiz.
Keep Your Eye on the Syllabus
With apologies to trees everywhere, printing out the syllabus on the first day and keeping it posted on your wall or centered on your desktop (the real one, not the virtual one) is a powerful visual reminder that school’s in session and you’ve got work to do.
- Top syllabus tip: Upload every summer school deadline and test date to your digital calendar, and sync across all your devices so you can set alerts for upcoming assignments. This is smart at any time of year, but it’s especially helpful for online summer courses when you have no classroom reminders and the beautiful weather distracts you at every turn.
Remember That Summer Term is Accelerated
Squishing a 15-week term into four or six weeks online results in a large quantity of material coming your way in a very short period. This is not the semester to eagerly sign up for a 3000-level physics course if you barely passed the prerequisite last fall. Biting off more than you can chew is a risk, particularly for first-time college students who just graduated from high school and feel academically adventurous. Don’t be a hero this summer. This is the ideal time to take an introductory course, with material you can reasonably manage in a compressed term.
An accelerated schedule means everything happens faster, including falling behind. Online summer classes seem to do some weird time-warp thing, making you believe you have many more weeks of study time than you actually do. Bottom line: Keep up. The is the semester to get good at taking efficient notes and fast-tracking your study schedule.
- Top acceleration tip: If you want online summer classes to speed you closer to graduation, look for courses that do double duty, fulfilling both your general education requirement and prerequisites for your major or minor.
Ask Your Professor Questions
If you pluck up the courage to ask for clarity on a lecture point, someone else in your online classroom will feel a huge sense of relief. You’re not the only one who sometimes gets lost. Helping you find your way is the professor’s job.
Each online classroom platform will have a different mechanism for asking questions – could be the chat icon, a message system, a Q&A after the lecture, or your professor might prefer email if it’s an on-demand class – but they’re all equipped for give-and-take. So, ask away.
- Top professor tip: Introduce yourself to your instructor. Send an email the first week. Maybe forward a link to a pertinent article or share why you’re pleased to be in the course. Online learning needs to be distant only in fact; in truth, it can be quite congenial if you make the effort.
Claim Your Study Space
You need to give your study time the respect it deserves, with a writing surface, a comfortable chair, and some privacy. It’s fine once in a while to read class material while lazing in a hammock (it’s summer, after all), but you should have a dedicated spot for schoolwork. If it has natural light, that’s a bonus. Studies show that sunshine makes you more productive.
- Top study space tip: Go greener. If you can’t study in nature, bring nature into your study space, with windows overlooking trees or even a houseplant on your desk. Just looking at nature makes your brain work better.
Ask for Virtual Help
You’re online but you’re not on your own. The same academic resources that are available on campus are still available to you remotely. For instance, at USF, the Academic Success Center provides remote learning support for tutoring, writing, and skills mentoring. Many online summer courses organize study groups or tutoring breakout sessions.
- Top help tip: Make an appointment during your professor’s office hours. As is done on campus during the regular academic year, your professor will post times open for student meetings, an invitation for you to ask for remote assistance on coursework or concepts. This is invaluable one-on-one time to make sure you understand all of the class material and topics. Don’t waste it.
Get the Textbook
If you think you can forgo the textbook for a short and sweet summer session, think again. Textbooks reinforce the lecture material, and for many students who struggle with the auditory ecosystem of online classes, the textbook provides the best route for comprehension and better grades.
- Top textbook tip: You can get most digital copies of textbooks free. Students affected by the coronavirus can download e-textbooks from leading publishers and from their campus bookstore. The USF bookstore, for instance, is waiving the fee for digital textbooks during the shutdown.
Check in with Your Academic Advisor
As you acquire credits this summer, make a virtual appointment with your advisor to plan your fall course schedule. Confirm how many more credits you’ll need before you can declare your major (and in which sequence to take certain classes) or how many semesters you’ll need for graduation. This status check will renew your enthusiasm and focus as you complete summer school.
- Top advisor tip: Verify all your credits are transferred if you choose to take an online course with your local community college this summer.
Remote learning has its challenges, and one of them is, well, you’re remote. But it’s possible to forge real friendships in an online academic environment. Participate in discussion forums. If there are no virtual study groups for your course, create one. As you do admin duty for the group, you can set the tone of friendliness and fun and help your classmates connect. Having friends in class can help you maintain your interest in attending and participating in class discussions, which can boost your grades.
- Top friends tip: Most professors do an icebreaker or introduction exercise the first week, particularly if it’s a smaller summer class. Read all of your classmates’ bios, taking note of hometowns and hobbies. No need to force it, but where you see common ground, reach out via chat or on the class Facebook page.
USF’s Online Summer Classes Start Soon
If you’re already a USF Bull, register today for Summer A, B, or C, all fully online. If you’re an incoming first-year student or a transfer student, we invite you to consider getting a jump on the academic year by enrolling in one or two summer sessions. If you’re a high school student evaluating your college choices, we invite you to look into the online summer courses offered at USF. Our admissions team is here to answer your questions. Contact us by email or snail mail or phone, 813-974-3350.
About Leigh Perkins
Freelance marketing writer Leigh Brown Perkins firmly believes that building new skills and chasing new ideas should be a lifelong quest for all of us.