A Former Homeschooler’s Perspective & Advice on Online Classes
When the pandemic disrupted lives around the world, students had to adjust to the sudden shift to online courses. As a new normal settled in, I noticed friends and students having difficulty adjusting—even dropping out. Fortunately, I had an easier transition to the online environment. I believe that transition is due to my upbringing as a homeschooled student. If someone had told me that my upbringing was preparing me for a worldwide pandemic someday, I’m not sure I would have believed them. After a year of online UMSL courses, I believe there are three useful habits from homeschooling that will help set a student up for success.
Utilizing one’s resources is a vital habit in online courses. As a homeschooled student, sometimes the curriculum did not convey the material well. However, I couldn’t accept defeat and blame others. I found that the same is true for online college courses. A variety of resources exist for a student’s success. When a lesson or an assignment is confusing, e-mail the class’s student instructor or professor with a respectful and specific question. Due to the nature of an online course, professors are usually understanding of these kinds of e-mails. Additional lessons from free resources, such as the YouTube channel, Crash Course, or even the website Khan Academy, also exist. Jantti and Cox of the University of Wollongong, Australia, revealed positive correlations between using library resources and academic performance—a 12-point grade difference in some cases! To think that is only utilizing library resources! Oftentimes, all you need to clear up confusion are more details or a different perspective.
Other habits reinforce self-discipline, which is a must in online courses. In my homeschooling days, I relied on myself to complete lessons, tests, and projects. The resulting habits help me to continue this reliance and self-discipline in online classes. Go beyond writing due dates in a calendar and schedule days to work on those projects. Ideally, these schedules allow a cushion of time. It would be nice to assume that our schedules will go exactly as we plan, but student life has a predictable way of disrupting that assumption. I’ve often thanked myself for setting up the safety net of extra time. A list of daily goals also helps. The daily goals dictate my daily schedule and direction. This habit especially helps when all the online assignments seem overwhelming. Weintraub, Cassell, and DePatie of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that when these goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-related, performance can increase, and even stress can decrease. Like a muscle, self-discipline gets stronger every time one exercises it. Exercise relying on yourself, rather than on others, for reminders to begin or submit schoolwork.
Another vital habit is continually assessing one’s general schedule and the time constraints of an online course. As a homeschooled student, there were assumptions that my flexible schedule equated to free time. With online college courses, those assumptions can resurface. Course time requirements are no joke. A 16-week, 3-credit-hour class requires at least 6-8 hours of studying a week according to most UMSL syllabi. Professors tend to create extra assignments to ensure that online students are paying attention to the course material. These extra assignments can easily become more work than a traditional in-person class. Carefully consider your schedule when registering for classes, either taking fewer online courses or taking a combination of both in-person and online courses. Don’t commit time you don’t have and save yourself unnecessary stress.
As online courses approach, especially during the summer, keep these habits in mind. Utilize available resources, encourage self-discipline, and assess schedules. Additionally, UMSL provides an Online Readiness Survey too. Now face those online classes with confidence—you’ve got this!
To further read, “Measuring the Value of Library Resources and Student Academic Performance through Relational Datasets” by Jantti M., & Cox, B., visit: https://doi.org/10.18438/b8q89f
To further read, “Nudging Flow through ‘SMART’ Goal Setting to Decrease Stress, Increase Engagement, and Increase Performance at Work” by Weintraub, J., Cassell, D., & DePatie, T. P., visit: https://doi.org/10.1111/joop.12347