Don’t get stung by online classes, follow these tips from a virtual course veteran

Illustration by Margaret Tamez, Mattheau Faught and Anthony Lazon

An extended spring break may have seemed like a good idea. Then came the shift of all classes online.
Some people may think online classes are a breeze, but that is not the case for everyone.
When I took my first stab at online classes my thought was, “Oh, this will be easy. I can go to school on my couch while watching TV.” While this is true, it takes a lot more motivation than I had initially expected.
My biggest issue is procrastination. I think that I can do weeks’ worth of work in a day or two. So, as someone who has failed online classes in the past to now making A’s, learn from my mistakes and check out some of these tips and tricks to stay ahead of the game.
[READ MORE: Opinion: Online classes aren’t as bad as we make them out to be]
Routines are essential
Set aside a “virtual” class time. Think of it as an actual class just conveniently located in the next room. You can do either small chunks every day or think of it in traditional terms and do every other weekday for one to two hours.
Additionally, there is almost always a discussion board post that requires two responses to classmates. Do the initial response at the beginning of the week, then do the others as the week progresses.
While having a school routine down pat, a daily lifestyle routine will improve every aspect of your life, not just in the (virtual) classroom.
Treat the day as if you were actually getting ready to leave the house. Get up, shower, eat breakfast or whatever it is you normally do. Just find something that works for you and try to stick to it.
Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. I know it’s hard because we’re all losing track of our days, but you can do it.
[READ MORE: Five must-have apps to help you make it through college]
Take advantage of resources
During this time when most of us are unable to leave the house, home-based Wi-Fi is a necessity.
However, some people do not have access to reliable, if any, Wi-Fi at home. Charter/Spectrum is offering free Wi-Fi for 60 days and AT&T is offering no overage charges for those that do not have unlimited plans.
For people taking 8-week online classes, Vital Source has partnered with major textbook companies to make many online course materials free.
Check out these companies and what they are offering for you during this time. Also, make sure to call your bank, loan providers and utility companies to see if you can get extensions on bills and payments if your income has been affected.
The Dallas County Community College District is also working to help aid in the transition to online-only classes.
[READ MORE: High-five: Tips to stay private online]
On Blackboard, there is an “Intro to Online Learning” function available to those enrolled in online courses.
It’s really just there to help, and other students are available in threads and forums discussing how they’ve been successful or what they are struggling with. This function also includes the basics of eCampus, Eastfield support services, strategies to succeed and even an online orientation.
Professors are another vital resource in the world of online classes If I’m struggling with an assignment, nothing has helped me more than sending an e-mail to get their help.
Check out the websites of the DCCCD, Eastfield or The Et Cetera for a list of resources.
Couches aren’t workspaces
Make sure to set up a proper workspace. People usually think working from home means couches, sweats and Netflix in the background, however, this can be distracting. While not everyone may have an actual work desk, a kitchen table or a bar with chairs will do.
Setup shop somewhere quiet with minimal distractions and put your phone on vibrate. Netflix will be there for you once you finish your assignments and relaxing after completing a task only makes it that much better.
Treat yourself
The most important, and my favorite tip, is this: set up a designated time for lunch. Whatever time works best for you and your schedule is fine, just make sure you are taking time for yourself.
You can prepare a nice meal or a quick sandwich during your newly appointed lunchtime. Or use this time to kick back and catch up on your favorite show.
And if you work from home as well, I suggest a designated time for a happy hour drink, or two. Online classes require a lot of self-discipline and motivation and during this time it can be hard to maintain that responsibility.
[READ MORE: Five DFW craft brews for your inner beer snob]
Stay active
With school and work, being active can get lost in the shuffle. However, adding in workouts makes a day more structured.
Whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, roller-skating or at-home workouts, just do it. It’s totally fine to take the occasional time to chill but take it from me: a week of bingeing and being a couch potato gets old.
With school starting back up on Monday, get used to going outside even if it’s just to get some fresh air or to walk your dog. If you do at-home workouts, try moving it outside to take advantage of the spring weather.
These are trying times, but things could be worse. Follow your routine and try to stay active.
This quarantine won’t last forever, and you don’t want to be blindsided when life returns to normal.