Campus & Community

Tips for Taking Online Classes

While faculty across the country were preparing to put their face-to-face courses online, Associate Professor Laura Saunders co-presented “Yes, You Can! Tips for Moving Online at Short Notice," a free webinar offered by the Association for Library and Information Science Educators (ALISE).

“I saw on Twitter that my colleague Melissa Wong was doing a presentation for librarians on how to do library instruction online,” Saunders says. “We began talking about this on March 16 and presented on March 19, so everyone worked quickly to get things ready and ALISE generously made the webinar freely available to everyone.”

The webinar offered specific tips on how to get materials online quickly, how to develop an engaging discussion prompt, and tips for good communication with students.

“To facilitate discussion, we recommend a site called Answer Garden, where people can answer an open-ended question and the site creates a word cloud in real-time. This could be used in an online class to take a poll and create some interactivity,” she said.

Tips for students new to online learning

  1. Manage your time. Start by mapping out a calendar of all of the assignment and activity due dates along with your other work and family commitments, and then block off time each week to get classwork done. Even asynchronous online classes tend to have a weekly flow, and a lot of them include discussion boards, which depend on student participation throughout the week to function. If people wait till the last minute to post, it won't really be a conversation. Plan short chunks of time to participate throughout the week.
  2. Be a good participant. Good discussion posts are thoughtful, draw on course materials including readings, lectures, and peer posts, and offer critical reflections on the materials. Good response posts go beyond just agreeing with peers. Consider asking probing questions to encourage your peers to think more deeply and to spur more conversation. Build on your peers' posts with your own ideas and experience, and encourage your peers to consider other perspectives.
  3. Be aware of (and build) your support system. Your instructor is your first point of contact, but the campus has lots of other support services that are all continuing to work through this crisis: the library, writing center, accessibility services, counseling center, and technology support, among others. Share contact information with peers to stay connected about classwork, but also for social support.

Saunders also has advice for both students and faculty: “Be kind to yourself,” she says. “We're all entering new territory, and we're all anxious and stressed. But we have a community of support that we can draw on, even if it's at a distance right now.”

You May Also Like


"I write today about the horrific deaths of African Americans at the hands of people who are sworn to protect and serve. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are but the latest victims of society’s inherent racism." - President Helen Drinan

Voices of Simmons