Seven Tips on How to Beat Online Learning Jitters

  • Michael Hicks

Distance learning has come a long way. From the days when Aristotle sent his exams to be graded by pigeon (probably) to the video cassette tape shipped to your doorstep, technology has steadily advanced, allowing for more and more flexibility. Today’s working professional can start a new degree, or finish the one they started years ago, in the evenings and on the weekends, and hundreds of programs are available. 

College isn’t always easy, though, and online learning can be intimidating. While some will welcome the freedom and flexibility, there are still some things to get used to. Not having fellow students all around means that you’ll have to manage your time well so that everything gets done. 

Here are some tips to calm your anxieties about starting an online class. 

Read the Syllabus 

Every class you take will have a document that lists the learning objectives, assignments, textbooks, and schedule of the class. Get an idea of what will be expected. Read about the assignments and when they’ll be due. 

Send Your Prof an Email 

Don’t be that guy. No professor wants the first interaction you have to be the email they get at three in the morning about your paper being eaten by the cat. Take the time to write a little introduction. It’s just human nature – professors remember that sort of thing, and this can come in real handy – maybe you’ll need a recommendation after the class is over!

Figure Out What Time of Day You Do Your Best Work 

Maybe it’s the stillness of the early morning before the kids are awake. Maybe it’s a coffee shop in the afternoon. Maybe you’re a night owl. You can avoid burning out and grinding your gears if you hit that sweet spot during the day when you’re not too tired to concentrate on your work.

If Possible, Read the Textbook Before Class

Since you’ve read the syllabus, you’ll know ahead of time what books you’ll need to read. Get a hold of them early and read through them at your own pace. This really takes the pressure off of reading while the class is going on, since you’ll have that much less work to do. 

If You Have a Learning Difference, Let Someone Know

If you have trouble reading or concentrating, it might be dyslexia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or another documented learning disability. Many colleges have offices or individuals dedicated to making reasonable accommodations. It’s only wise to make use of every available resource. For SDI students, we’re delighted to help those with learning differences. If you’re an SDI student and need to communicate a learning difference, contact your Student Services Advisor or email

Take Time Away From Schoolwork to Recharge

Really? A school, telling you to take time off classwork? Yes! Reward yourself for meeting goals or completing assignments with a self-care activity, like a walk, a movie, a treat, or a dinner out. Don’t be that guy or girl that goes so hard with their classwork they burn out halfway through a course. It’s an avoidable mistake, and you’ll be so much happier.

Finally, Remember That This Too Shall Pass

Three hours into a five-hour paper that’s due at midnight, it can be easy to freak out. Remember why you started – the rewards will be worth it. 

What did we miss? Any tips to add? Give us a shout.

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