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Surviving Being an Online Grad Student

As everyone knows, schools all over the country, whether it be preschool all the way to colleges and universities are moving to an online platform due to the current climate that all of us find ourselves in. My own son and daughter are starting online school tomorrow. And so we will see how the schools have prepared for it. I know that my son will be receiving a learning packet. It was supposed to come in the mail but it didn’t. But fortunately, you can opt to go paperless, which is what I did this morning and you’re able to access the learning packets online. So that’s been very helpful. And then as well as my daughter, her teachers have been in contact with her via text and email to get prep for tomorrow’s start of the online platform. So how can students be successful, especially in the current climate that we find ourselves in where you know, many of us are trying to follow the guidelines of staying at home and so we’re not able to be out and about the way we usually are.

And a lot of us have been stuck in the house for a long time, especially kids, unless they’ve been going out with their families, you know, take a walk, taking a walk, which I do recommend, you know, going out there as long as you practice social distancing. The way news is that you can be successful in taking your classes online.

So the first time I took an online class, and I’m probably aging myself now, was in the early 2000s when I took a couple of classes at my local community college. At that moment, my actual four-year college did not even offer online courses. It was actually my community college that did, which I thought was really great. I felt like, Whoa, it’s super innovative. And I thought that that would be the way of the future. And at first, I was a little nervous because it was the first time I had ever taken an online class and I didn’t know what to expect. But I found the platform’s super, super easy. I was able to communicate with my teachers as well as my fellow classmates. Even in the early 2000s, I was able to do that.

Now I’m an MBA student. This is my last year. I started in 2018 and I am so excited. Five more classes to go. It was tough, but I was able to be successful at it. A lot of it was because I have taken online classes in the past, you know, early two thousand but also I was able to learn from other people who were currently it and I was able to apply it to my situation. So I’ve been very successful in my online classes. And so I want to show you how I’ve done it and hope that it helps you as well. So let’s go. The first thing you want to do is read the syllabus thoroughly. That is something that I tell every college student out there, whether it be someone who’s going physically to a class or someone who is doing an online class, but specifically, if you’re doing an online class because you’re not going to be able to be right in front of the professor seeing his or her body language, getting to hear other people’s questions and so forth in the beginning.

1. Read the Syllabus a Few Times

So you want to make sure that you read the syllabus. So many questions that you have, you’re able to ask the professor during the first class session as well as be able to, you know, if you already know your classmates, then sending them a text message or whatever type of chat messaging program that you all are doing to chat together. You can ask those questions to your peers and that is something we use actually group me and we have like a group and all of us like the message on there and we’ll even before the class starts we all like sit there and read the syllabus and ask each other questions like, Oh I wonder what this is about. I wonder what that is about. And then we’re able to collectively come up with a group of questions that we can ask the professor during on the first day.

2. Get Familiar with the Technologies

The second step is to get familiar with the technologies. Not all schools are using the same technology. So like for my kids they use Blackboard and Google class brooms primarily for my school we use WebEx as well as canvas. So you want to make sure that you’re aware of how the technology that your school is using, how it works, what type of software you have to install if you need to and make sure that you are able to work with the tech support of that school to get out all the kinks. And all the issues that you’re having before the first session starts, so that is something that is very important because I know that someone in my cohort was actually having issues, one of our first classes and they were able to get that squared away and they asked the questions to the group and we were able to help him.

So that’s something that you want to make sure of is do a dry run to see if the technology works and then you don’t have to take the teacher’s time or your time and being like basically not at the same plate pace as your peers. If you make sure that all the technology is working before the first class session.

3. Prep Before Your Class Session

The third tip is to make sure that your prep for that class session read the syllabus. I know that my professors usually will send us a note a week before the class session to let us know what is upcoming, any type of problems they want us to work on or any cases they want us to read or analyze and so forth. So it makes sure that you are prepped before that. This is when self-discipline really, really comes to play. You have to have that self-discipline.

If you’re someone who uses a physical planner, use a physical planner. If you have a calendar, use that calendar, make sure notifications work on it, but make sure that you are reading the material, you’re doing any problems reading any of the cases and doing analysis on it before the first class. If you are prepared then you’re able to understand what the professor is teaching and you’ll be able to suck in more knowledge than someone who hasn’t read anything, haven’t prepped for anything. And then when the professor is talking is basically like the professor is speaking another language. So be prepared. Self-Discipline, you have to have self-discipline, have timers, everything you can do in order to get all those distractions away. And during that time you can sit there and prep for the next class.

4. Time Blocks and Dedicated Space

My fourth tip has dedicated time blocks and a physical space in your home where you can make sure that you get anything done.

It is harder when you work full time and you have kids on top of that. So you have to make sure that you think of when you can actually sit down and study for your class. I know some people in my cohort, they have little kids and they have very demanding jobs and I know that what they do is when the baby goes to sleep, that is when they start studying and doing anything that they need to do to be prepared for the next class. And so I usually, like if there was a group project, we would usually start around eight 39 because that’s when the kids would go to sleep and then they were able to get on and then we can start working on the group project. So make sure that you get that squared away. It really depends also on your biorhythm.

When you’re working on those time blocks, don’t try to read and do all your studying one day for a certain time block. It’s always better to break things down into smaller pieces. So try even if you can just do it like for 30 minutes a day, I recommend an hour, but if you can’t get an hour in, 30 minutes is a good amount of time and do it every day. You will probably have, depending on where you are, but I’m talking more as a grad student, you will have a class once a week, so you six to seven days to prepare for the next class.

So if you think about it, if you do one hour, that’s what, seven hours. If you do 30 minutes since that’s three and a half hours. So that’s plenty of time to at least understand the material and be able to engage in the next session.

5. Participate in Class

I tell my kids this all the time, but this is very, very true. Participate. I am someone who is super, super shy and I remember when I was in high school, even in college, like undergrad, I was so scared to raise my hand and talk cause I thought that I would say something dumb and then everybody would sit there rolling their eyes and start laughing at me. Yes, I know that’s a little much but that’s how I felt and I was very, very nervous. But now that I’ve gotten older and I think it’s also because I’m constantly talking and engaging with people at work, I’m at the point that I don’t care and it’s probably because I used to be also a business analyst so I ask question after question after question and I don’t care if people are rolling their eyes because I have to get those questions answered because if not then whatever technical solution we’re building is not going to function properly.

So I think that that’s why I got over my whole thing of being terrified of asking questions during class. That is something you need to do is participate if you are someone who is shy. One tip is a lot of my professors, and I know this is like this for other online courses, especially when you get to like college level is you can just chat away and they’ll have a separate window where they can see the chat and they’ll actually answer the question. So if you’re pretty shy and you don’t want to sit there and speak out when the professor is holding his class session, then go ahead and chatted, chatted. A lot of us do that and sometimes it’s better because then you have your other classmates who are able to also like respond to you or add to what you said. And I think that’s pretty helpful and I say this all the time.

6. Create or Join an Online Study Group

If you’re able to have an online study group do that. We still have that now. It’s more to other people in my cohort and I like, we sit there and we’ll text each other if we don’t understand something and we’ll work together to get that done. Recently we had this project to do in this investment analysis class that we’re in and my, one of my classmates and I, we sat there and we talked, we were texting back and forth trying to figure out one part that was really difficult and then you know, she called me and we sat there maybe for like 30 minutes and just talked about it and that was really, really, really useful for both of us. So that’s something that’s very helpful, try to find people that you can form study groups or people that you can touch base with. So then you’re able to understand the material even more. And like I said before, we use a group me for my entire cohort and we also like people will sit there and ask questions and things like that in there as well.

So that’s always great if you’re able to engage with your classmates because if you don’t have the answer then they probably do. And if you have that question, I bet you that someone else probably has the same question and both of you can work on it together or get it answered together.

7. Use Online Resources

My next tip is to take advantage of the online resources out there. You first want to start with your college. So my college has great resources. You can reach out to people. The library is amazing. Tons of databases that we can take advantage of as well. As I said in my previous video, we also have lynda.com that we get. There’s also Khan Academy and other places like that. So there are some great resources out there. I also, for math I use like math is fine, I always like that. Or if you’re working in something like investing in Investopedia, it’s also great.

So there so much abundance of resources out there and Google, YouTube or any search engine that you’re using, but you can find the majority of the time you’ll find the answer. I’ll say majority because there have been a couple of times and one of my MBA classes, I could not, I was stumped and I couldn’t find the answer. I was able to reach out to the professor and she was able to get me squared away.

8. Reach Out to Your Professors

My last tip is don’t be afraid to reach out to the professor. It’s different when you’re in college because you’re like, Oh, I can just go during the office hours and then you can just interact with a professor there. My professors have online office hours and they as well will answer right away when you send emails, which I think is great. I okay. I don’t email about professors all the time cause that would be annoying.

But I email them a few times, you know, not during the week but throughout the entire session and it has been really helpful knowing that my professors, I can reach them right away. I think that when I was an undergrad, of course this is before the, you know, everybody’s now using email and chat. I didn’t have that back then. So reach out to your professors. They are there to help you and they’re there to gladly help you. I’ll emphasize that. Gladly help you. So don’t be afraid to reach out to them. And if you’re introverted like me, it’s even better because you don’t even have to go physically to an office. You can just talk to them via email or I know some of them do video conferencing, which I think is really helpful and that’s what the online office hours are for. So you can even do that and sometimes it’s, they are video conferencing and you’re just chatting without having your camera on, so that’s even better.

So I hope that those were useful. Please comment below how online classes are going for you or for your kids or any of your family members or friends that are going through it right now or have in the past. Especially if you can’t go to campus all the time, whether it be that you have of medical issue or you’re taking care of little kids, whatever the situation. I think it’s great that more and more colleges are offering online classes. I really hope that this was helpful. Please let me know what other videos you would like to see. I want to make sure I make videos that are helpful to you and so please comment below and let me know. And if you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, I send updates whenever I post a new video or I post a new blog. So I don’t try to send you that many, but that would be great if you can subscribe to my newsletter, because if you don’t want to hit that notification bell, you will know when the video has been posted that way. So have a good week and I will talk to you soon. Bye.

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