Center for Academic Excellence

Academic Advice for Multiple Course Formats

a student

Notes on surviving and thriving in that class with a format that’s not your style:

  1. Adopt a Growth Mindset.
    This may mean some self-talk (Oh, here’s a challenge I haven’t faced before.  I’m going to figure this out and I know I can because I’ve figured things out before) or it might mean reaching out and asking for help.  Remind yourself that most people really like being helpful!  A list of such people is included below, but really, you are surrounded by people who can either help or might like the chance to figure it out alongside you (because chances are good they need to know it too).  Together you can brainstorm creative solutions.
  2. Embrace the Buddy System.
    We have recommended this for self-paced courses, but this fall, finding someone to partner with for encouragement and accountability is all the more important.  The physical structure of an in-person class provides a built-in schedule and sometimes face-to-face reminders of tests and assignments.  But when a class deviates from this, you need to provide the schedule and the structure.  Create a routine and stick to it.  A partner helps.
  3. Get a planner!
    We all know these have been pushed on you since middle school and many of you have resisted so far—and are pretty proud of yourselves.  But in college a planner or calendar is a necessity—and this fall it’s even more necessary.  You will have a lot to keep track of and keeping track of deadlines and due dates in your head causes low-level stress.  It slows you down.  Write it down.  Write everything down.
  4. Organize!
    Everyone is different on this one.  Folders, notebooks, charts, colored pens—whatever works for you.  The goal is to feel you are in control of where you have to go, what you have to do, when you have to do it.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, it may be because you can’t see what it is that has to be done.  Clarify exactly what you have to do, lay it all out so you can see it, and then break it down into manageable steps.  If you are still feeling overwhelmed (there is much to feel overwhelmed about this year other than classes!) talk to your academic advisor—it might be helpful to drop a class (but know your drop deadlines.  Write them down!)
  5. Find the positive in whatever class structure you have.
    I can attend class in my pajamas!  I only have to walk across campus once a week!  Most of the classwork is on discussion board and I express myself best in writing!  I can listen to the lecture and do my work at 1 am when I am at my best!  The current situation is nobody’s ideal.  But acknowledging that it’s not all bad might help.
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
    Actors have to be more physical on stage than on camera.  They need to do more to communicate with the audience because it is harder to see and hear them.  Likewise with online and hybrid courses, professors and students need to do more to be seen and heard.  Know the minimum number of times you are expected to log in or post per week—and do more.  E-mail your professor with questions, respond to e-mails, reply to posts.  Be present.
  7. And finally, take the initiative to learn what you came here to learn.
    The structure of school and class might look different, but don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm for learning.

People who can help