If you’ve gone through remote learning in high school already, you may think you’re a pro.

But there’s a difference between remote learning during the depths of COVID-19 versus remote learning when in-person opportunities are available.

Remote learning can enhance your college experience—one survey conducted by Best Colleges found that 75% of students who took online courses said that online was better or equal to their on-campus studies. Here’s one of the economic benefits of remote learning: If you attend a four-year university, you can take summer classes online through your local community college to complete general ed requirements at a lower tuition rate. Taking classes outside of the academic year not only can save you money, but can save you time, accelerate your progress toward your degree, and provide more flexibility in your course schedule.

There are other advantages as well: Online courses can provide more flexibility in terms of location, structure, and subject. Professors may open up online classes for students at other schools, which can help you build connections across campuses and help you study niche subjects that may not have enough interest on one campus alone. Or sometimes, a professor may offer virtual small group sessions. These smaller groups can allow you to get to know your professor and classmates, interact more, and provide clarity on any topics that may have been confusing in a larger lecture setting.

Understand the Course Set Up

What do you need for class? How will the professor grade you? Will attendance be taken, or can you watch a class recording? What about study groups? Before you start an online class, a smart remote learning technique is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. Using the syllabus as a guide can help you anticipate projects and tests, and can help you effectively develop a plan to succeed. Remote learning may require you to be more independent about your learning and anticipate any hurdles before they happen. Setting up a small study group of students within your online class can help you keep on track.

Participate Actively

It can be tempting to turn your camera off in a lecture setting. But the more you engage, the more you’ll get out of the class—and the more fulfilling it will likely be for you. If you don’t feel comfortable having your camera on, don’t worry there are other ways to stay engaged. Type your questions or feedback in the chat box, and challenge yourself to raise your hand and participate in class discussions. Also, if the professor or teaching assistant offer optional office hours, take them up on it. Consider checking in with them early in the semester, rather than waiting right before midterms or finals to discuss your grades.

Take Advantage of Available Resources

Remote learning can be challenging. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to the virtual environment, consider chatting with your advisor or another on-campus resource. For example, some campuses have peer tutors or open study sessions.

There also may be specific virtual classrooms your instructor has set up—take advantage of any additional resources and apps. Sometimes, instructors may post additional materials within the virtual classroom. The same goes with communicating with your professor. You may have to take extra initiative, such as dropping in on virtual office hours or emailing them after class if you had a question or point that you weren’t able to cover.

Connect With Other Students

Making friends is one of the best parts of college. It can be a little harder in a virtual setting, but try to find opportunities to connect with your classmates—not only about class, but about what’s going on in your lives. Consider setting up a small group study session, either online or in person. You also might want to set up a text group for the class so you can share resources and questions among the class. Your professor may not set up these informal groups, so you might need to take the initiative and do it yourself.

Check In on Yourself

“I’d recommend that students try to look at one or two weeks at a time, and then do a brief self-assessment at the end of that period,” says Debby Schauffler, a 30-year teaching veteran. Ask yourself how you did, what you’re feeling, and what progress you’ve made in the past one to two weeks. Also, think about what’s working and what isn’t in terms of learning. “Remember that everything won’t fall on one end or the other of an imaginary continuum,” she says. “It’s okay if things feel just okay.”

Applying these tips can help you succeed in online classes. Remote learning can feel uncomfortable or awkward, especially at first, so try to be patient with yourself and others. Engaging, asking questions, and building community can help the course meet your needs.

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