Tips for Making the Most of Your Online Classes

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Though you may no longer be living in your host city, you still have the opportunity to learn from your professors, stay connected with your classmates, and continue the relationships that began abroad. One of the great lessons of study abroad is learning to embrace the unknown. If anyone can make the most of this time, it’s you and us together.

  • Establish a quiet, inspiring workspace

Find a room or a corner in your house where you can set up class for the near future. Look for somewhere you enjoy being with good internet and few distractions. If it were us, we’d try to find a desk or a table that we could dedicate solely to class, so we could leave our laptop, notes, and books there even after class is done.

  • Limit distractions

Treat online class as you would any other class and do what you can to give it your full attention. Beyond finding a quiet place where you can be alone, you’ll also want to turn off your phone, silence notifications, and close email and other windows that might pull your thoughts elsewhere.

  • Be prepared to work independently

Due to scheduling and time zone differences, you may be spending less time in “live” class sessions. It is your responsibility to keep up with assignments and course content (videos, readings, etc.) on the schedule established by your professor. For example, some videos may be available for only a limited time, so be sure to view them in a timely manner.

  • Map out a new routine and class schedule

With on-demand online courses, it’s easy to think that you can just “get to it later,” but you’ll be much better off, and class will feel more manageable if you build a specific routine for online learning. Maybe that looks like coursework in the morning with a break for life in the afternoon. Or, maybe you’re more of a night owl and you’ll pay better attention if you just hunker down and work in the evenings. Whatever works for you, stick to it. Routines take practice.

  • Avoid multitasking

You’ve heard this your whole life, but it’s an important tip. With online learning, it really is best to focus on one course and one assignment at the time. You’ll get through projects faster and you’ll absorb more information by doing so.

  • Make new learning habits, but keep the old

You’re no newbie to school; and you, more than anyone else, knows what works for you in terms of classroom habits. Things like arriving on time, turning off your phone, and coming to class prepared are all familiar keys to success. It’s more of the nitty gritty habits that you might find yourself adjusting. Maybe you’re better off taking notes by hand rather than on your computer, or vice versa. Test out some new habits early on to see what works in your new routine.

  • Keep track of key dates and deadlines

Some of these will appear in your Moodle calendar, and you can add additional events and deadlines to your personal Moodle calendar by double-clicking on a day to add an entry. You might also use Google calendar or another application that you’re already familiar with.

  • Troubleshoot tech problems

If videos are choppy, pages are taking a long time to load, or you are struggling to stay connected during live class sessions, you may have bandwidth problems. Try some of our tips for dealing with technical issues:

- Turn off camera and video in videoconferencing software like BigBlueButton or Zoom

- Stagger your use of the internet with other members of your household

- Use a wired internet connection

- If you are using a wireless connection, move closer to your WiFi router and turn the wireless off on other devices in your household which may be consuming bandwidth 

- Verify that your computer’s operating system and browsers are working and up to date

Technical issues are certainly frustrating, but we will do everything we can to make sure that technical problems do not get in the way of your learning. Please contact your professor if you have concerns about your ability to complete the course requirements due to technical problems.

  • Log in to video calls early and remember to mute yourself

Test out your system connections, audio, and video before you hop on for a video conference. And always remember to use headphones and mute yourself when you’re not speaking to reduce background noise. If you are ultimately unable to join videoconference sessions, notify your professor so that you can get instructions for viewing the recording later.

  • Reach out to your professor

Even though they are far away, your professors are committed to helping you by answering questions, discussing your concerns, and clarifying expectations. Your professor has provided their preferred contact methods—don’t hesitate to use them!

  • Utilize your free Rosetta Stone Access

As an IES Abroad student, you have access to the online language learning tool, Rosetta Stone. There’s a reason it’s an award-winning app—people love it! Use it alongside your coursework to refine grammar, pronunciation, and more. Instructions for creating a Rosetta Stone account are in your MyIESabroad account.

  • Keep in touch with your classmates 

Studying online does not mean that you are alone. You know your classmates, and you probably miss them too! Consider creating a virtual study group via WhatsApp or Facebook to discuss class content or just to talk about what you’re experiencing.

  • Take breaks!

Our brains aren’t wired to stare at screens and work 24/7. Build breaks into your schedule and allow yourself to fully step away from your at-home classroom to recharge. When you’re not working on your courses, try to “turn it off” and focus on taking care of yourself!

More than anything else, know that we’re here to help as you transition into this new routine. Your professors have years of experience and commitment to their students—including you! Lean into online learning and embrace this new uncharted territory, knowing that we’re here to help all along the way.

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