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5 Online Course Tips for International Students

Fall 2020 isn’t going to be a typical semester on college campuses.

But this month our students have landed in the U.S. to start their bachelor’s and master’s programs at the University at Buffalo, University of West Florida, and UNC Greensboro.

We also have students who decided to stay in their country but will start their degree with online classes from Minnesota State University and Mississippi State University.

And others have decided to defer (delay starting their university classes) until Spring 2021 at Alliant International University and Fall 2021 at Duke.

Universities are working hard to make sure you get the education you deserve. But online classes are becoming part of our “new normal”.

So we reached out to our Epro 360 Network to find out what online courses have looked like for them and to give you 5 tips to help you succeed.

“I worried about the quality of education. However, so far, my university has been very flexible and has put a lot of effort into maintaining our coursework… Although there are some aspects of learning that are hard to translate into the virtual classroom, I still feel like I am getting a quality education.”

– Amanda Dubbula, B.S. Nursing, National University

What You Can Expect 

Many professors are using Zoom to give live lectures. But instead of you sitting in a classroom, you are sitting in front of your computer at home.

The good news is that because you’re starting this fall or next spring, your professors should be more comfortable with this new way of teaching.

Why?

Because when universities first had to move to virtual courses earlier in the year, everyone had to rush to move their classes online.

But they have had months of experience and  now have a better idea of what to use and how to use it.

One of the reasons Zoom has been a popular option is because you actually can still have a lecture-style atmosphere.

You can separate into breakout rooms for group discussions. And you can use the Raise Hand feature to let your professor know you have a question or comment.

This works great for normal lectures but what about labs?

Professors have said moving labs online was a hard part of the process. But they didn’t let that stop them. And they have adapted quickly.

Some professors started using platforms like i-Human for students to work with virtual patients.

And other professors began recording live lab sessions so their students could see the results and complete worksheets from home.

Now that you know what to expect from online classes, here are 5 tips to help you adapt to this new style of learning.

1. Get Organized

College courses are usually a lot more demanding than high schools courses. There is a lot of independent learning that needs to be done and usually a lot of reading.

So feeling overwhelmed in your first semester is normal. And with online classes you’ll  have to get used to some new things.

But it’s important to remember that you won’t be the only person having those feelings.

When you are taking classes on campus, you go to class and sit in a lecture hall. You go to your favorite corner in the library to write that 20-page paper. Or you roll out of bed to sit at your desk and study all morning.

But depending on the restrictions in your city, you may be watching lectures, studying, and writing essays all from home.

And if you have decided to stay in your home country, you will have to think about the time difference.

Leticia our Marketing Director recommends using FoxClocks.to keep track of different time zones. She lives in Madrid and often speaks with students in Latin America, so FoxClocks helps her keep track of what time it is across the Atlantic.

Setting up a method to keep track of the time difference will make sure you never miss a class or office hours. And will make it easier when you have to schedule calls for group projects.

We also recommend using an online calendar (like Google Calendar) or a notebook to stay organized.

If you will be taking more than one online course, you’ll have lots of emails, online assignments, and online tests.

Adding important dates to your calendar or agenda will make sure you don’t have to write an email to your professor begging for an extension on an assignment.

2. Tell People Your Schedule

If you’re not living alone, finding a quiet place to study may not be easy.

But if you are going to be required to attend live classes and have your camera on it’s important.

Once you’ve put your class times, study sessions, and any other important events in your calendar, you should sit down with your roommate (parents or siblings) and let them know when you’ll need “quiet time”.

If you’re in the dorms with a roommate, you may have to agree on who gets the room when because you’ll both need some quiet time.

But if you’re at home, try to set boundaries like “if the door is closed it means I’m in class so please don’t throw the door open “yelling” (speaking from experience).

3. Set Boundaries for Yourself

So now that you’ve figured out where you’re going to be productive. You have to actually be productive.

Tiffany Vien-Sanchez, who finished her last semester of her M.S. in Behavioral Psychology program at Pepperdine University online, shared that she had to set guidelines for herself when she was on Zoom.

“It’s very tempting to multitask when others can’t see you or to check your phone or work on another project, but I feel much better on days I know I’ve fully paid attention to the content (and gotten my tuition’s worth of learning for the day).”

If you know you’ll be guilty of having your favorite blog open, checking your inbox, or even scrolling through Instagram, there are plenty of apps and extensions you can use.

Stay Focused is a Google Chrome extension that lets you set a time limit on how long you can view a website for that day.

If you notice yourself scrolling through Instagram on your desktop or checking your inbox every time there’s a new message, this can help.

Just set the timer and if you go over the time, you’ll be blocked from that website for the day.

Another option is an app like RescueTime. Because it’s not an extension you can use any browser. You just download the app and it runs in the background while you get to work.

What’s special about RescueTime is that it not only blocks certain websites but it also collects data. The data is used to create reports that show you how much time you’ve spent on social media sites or online stores. And the time of the day you do it.

If you’d like to better organize your study schedule, these reports will help you discover when you’re most productive and when you’re least productive.

4. Make an Extra Effort to Talk to People

Online classes don’t let you stand outside the lecture hall door talking about assignments or your weekend while you wait for your professor to get there.

But that doesn’t mean you still can’t meet new people.

Many universities have started having virtual orientations for their international students. That’s the perfect place to connect with other people who are in the exact situation you are in.

Take advantage of the get-to-know-you activities. Ask if anyone is in your major.

If the university doesn’t already offer an online forum, be the one to start a Facebook or LinkedIn group or exchange email address to keep in touch.

What about in class?

Try logging on 5 to 10 minutes before the lecture starts. That’s the perfect place to start a conversation with whoever wants to join in.

Professors also know students are worried about this and have been encouraged to assign more group activities.

If you have a group project, don’t be shy. Ask questions and try to get to know people. If you connect with someone, make the effort to keep in touch and even create a separate study group with them.

Do some of these tips make you uncomfortable? If they do, we understand.

But you’ve made the big decision to leave your home to study a degree in the U.S.. And that shows that you know how to make things happen.

5. Take Breaks

Most of us already use our phones and computers to read, talk with friends, or watch shows on Netflix.

But you’ll be adding a lot more screen time now that you’re adding online lectures and online reading assignments.

If you have a lecture-style class and there is no PowerPoint presentation, try taking notes by hand and listening to the lecture. This will help give you less screen time if it’s not really necessary.

When you know you have a long day ahead of you, make it a priority to take a physical break between classes. Or after a couple hours of sitting at your desk.

You can step away and stretch. Do jumping jacks to get your blood circulating. Or go outside for some fresh air.

Going on walks is also a perfect way to get a bit of exercise. And can also help clear your mind on days you feel a bit more overwhelmed.

Pick a break routine that fits you. But listen to your body and take a break when you need it.

Taking online classes means setting up a new routine. But if you’ve worked with us at Epro 360 you are already used to creating remote connections.

And if you haven’t worked with us, think of this experience as preparation for the future job market. Many companies have asked their employees to work-from-home and it may be here to stay.

Leave a comment below if you try one of our tips and let us know how it’s going! 

If you’d like to get more tips follow us on Instagram to stay updated on future blogs.

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