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Staying Organized With Online Classes

College classes in person can be a challenge but when they go online it can add other challenges to the mix. With the current events and trends of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that most if not all college classes will be online. Besides motivation, the key for success while taking online classes is organization. You might be thinking, “Well I was organized in High School” or “I remember due dates really well.” That may all be true but college is a whole new environment. Especially when you are taking classes online, the professor will not always be there to remind you of due dates and upcoming assignments or exams.  



Here are some tips that can help you stay organized during online classes


1. Purchase a Planner: Find a planner and stick with it! On the first day of class, take the time to look over the syllabi and write down all of the due dates for assignments and exams. Remember that these dates may change (especially because of the COVID-19 Pandemic) so write it down in pencil. As a current college senior and former FYE Peer Facilitator, I recommend writing down the due dates a day before they are actually due. This will give you ample time to make sure that it is complete, your best work and will make you feel prepared. In addition, to assignments, and exams, do not forget to write down the assigned/suggested readings (chapters and page numbers). 


I always use Plum Paper planners. They are customizable and the “Teacher 1: Middle + High School” allows for you to type your course names/numbers so that all assignments are categorized by class. 


In addition to a planner, set a daily alarm on your phone for each class. Set the alarm to go off, 10 minutes before the class begins. This extra 10 minutes will give you enough time to stop what you are doing, log onto the lecture and to get your notes and pencil/pen out. 


2. Create a Routine: It is important that you create a study and sleep routine. If you are online, I recommend you wake up at least half an hour before your class starts. This time will allow for you to get dressed, brush your teeth and hair, take any medications, and eat a quick breakfast. If you wake up an hour before your class, you may even have time to work out! You can click here to read about sleep routines, here to read about exercising during a pandemic. 


In an online class (while it may be tempting), do not listen to the lecture in your bed. Get up, sit at your desk and take notes as if you were there in person. 

  1. It will help you get a better start to your day. 

  2. This will help you focus, and remember more of the content. 

  3. It will show the professor and your peers that you are interested and engaged. 

  4. It will allow for a more seamless transition to in person classes next semester. 


3. Remember Why: Things will get tough and your motivation level may get low! This is normal but it is critical that you have a way to get your motivation level back up. Create a visual reminder of why you came to college. On a piece of paper or index card, write down: 

  1. 1 reason why you came to college 

  2. 2 academic goals for the semester 

  3. 3 personal or social goals for the semester 

Make sure that these goals are quantifiable. For example instead of writing, “I want to do well in my classes,” say, “I want to average a 3.5 GPA this semester” or “I want to get all A’s this semester”. Another example would be, “I want to meet 3 new friends this semester” or “I want to join 2 clubs by September 20th”. 


Put this reminder somewhere you will see it everyday. You can tape it to the back of your door, to your desk, or on the wall next to your bed. 


4. Introduce Yourself: You should do this whether or not you are in person or online. Introduce yourself to your professor and other classmates. Before the first day of class, send an email to your professor introducing yourself, and telling them that you are excited and looking forward to the course. You can ask them what you should do to be successful in the course and then take their advice! This email would also be a good place to mention if you have accommodations through the Disability Services Office. You can read more about accommodations here


Here is a sample email to a professor:

Email Subject Line: Student Introduction: Course Number and Section


Body: Professor Last Name of Professor


I hope you are doing well. My name is ______ and I am enrolled in your Course Number and Section. I am looking forward to this course and I am eager to learn about _____. Knowing that we are going to be online, I wanted to introduce myself.  I am a Freshman/Sophomore/Junior/Senior  _____major. Can you please give me any advice on how to do well in your course? What will your online classes look like? 

**If you have accommodations add: I also wanted to inform you that I am a student working with Disability Services and my approved accommodations are _____ . How will these accommodations be provided in your course? Is there a time and date that we can meet virtually to discuss what this will look like? 


Closing: Thank you for your time and I look forward to learning from you this semester.


Thank you again,


Your Name


You should also introduce yourself to your classmates. Don’t be afraid to email, or direct message classmates that you might want to study with. You can say something like, “Hi! I know we are virtual this semester but would you like to set up a zoom study session next week? I think it would be good to get into a routine and stay on top of the assignments.” It is always helpful to have a friend in your classes that can help you with assignments, study for an exam or that can be a partner for a group project. In addition, this can help you form lasting friendships! You can click here to read about finding a community in college. 


These are just a few tips on how to stay organized during online classes. If you have any questions, or concerns click here to book a free 30 minute consultation with clinician, Danielle Feerst, OTR/L. In addition, you can connect with us on our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn



Written by Madison Gies, Summer 2020 Intern

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