Adapting Quickly to Your New Online Learning Environment

As a college student, you may be experiencing a sudden transition into online classes. The good news is that your university or college is taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). But what happens now? If you are accustomed to taking classes in-person, the change may produce uncertainty and questions, but there are many ways to make the shift to online courses easier.

Here is a guide for adapting to your new class format.

Practice being flexible and communicate often.

Find out if your professors will hold virtual office hours, or if they prefer to communicate via email. Questions will inevitably arise, so it’s important to know how your professor likes to connect virtually.

“Include details in your message,” recommends Thomas R. Wilson, Ph.D., director of online learning at Azusa Pacific University. “For example, if you have a question about something, you can send your instructor a screenshot.”

And remember that your professors are also experiencing this unexpected change. Don’t hesitate to reach out right away if there is a problem or question, but extend grace as much as possible. Your professors are likely receiving numerous questions from many students, and may need time to respond.

Make sure to read all announcements.

If you’re using an online learning environment like Canvas, important class news will often be delivered as announcements. You won’t want to miss these.

Check your notification settings in Canvas to make sure you’re getting the alerts you want for class activities. This is going to be your first line of communication and one of the best ways to stay on top of your classes though this transition. Make sure to read announcements and assignment details carefully, before reaching out to your professor with questions.

Adjust to more written exchanges.

Online classes often incorporate discussions, just like your in-person classes did, but how you accomplish that discourse is different. If your class is in an asynchronous format, you’ll most likely be using discussion threads, which means you’ll be writing out more of your thoughts.

One huge benefit is that you’ll be able to proofread, revise, and reflect before posting, notes Wilson. “Before posting online, students also have time to verify their answer by researching multiple sources and synthesizing the information,” he said.

However, if your course is synchronous with a group meeting via Canvas Conferences, Google Meet, or Zoom, you’ll have real-time interactions using your laptop or device to attend class at a certain time.

Keep working together.

Just because your course is online doesn’t mean you have to walk away from the partnerships you formed with classmates. And it’s a good time to establish new ones! Solidarity and teamwork are true strengths in times of stress.

“Reach out and team up with one or two classmates so you can help each other keep track of remaining deadlines and understand assignments,” said Wilson. If you need to remain physically distant, use Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or other virtual ways of meeting to talk it out with your classmates.

Expect some differences—but not too many.

The course syllabus you received at the start of the semester is like a contract. Your professor likely won’t deviate too much from this, even though the format is now online. Projects and assignments may be adapted, but the class expectations will remain the same. And you’ll still be getting the same quality of education and walking away from the class with the knowledge you need to know in that subject.

If you’re finding the transition to the online format challenging, contact your professor as soon as possible. They want to stay in touch and help you through the rest of your semester.

Azusa Pacific students who need help with Canvas or other technology can utilize the following resources.