New Semester Tips: How to Start Strong in Your Online Classes


Discover expert tips to help you be successful as you start classes in an online format.

A new semester can feel exciting, overwhelming and empowering all at once. It can be a chance for a fresh start and an opportunity to develop better habits around studying and schoolwork. When starting online classes, tried-and-true tips from in-person classes may need a little tweaking, however. Explore our top new semester tips below and learn how to adapt your old study habits to a new format – and develop new strategies for success in online classes too.


Check Yourself and Your Stuff

First things first: Pause for a moment to check in with yourself. Why are you taking online classes? What will motivate you to succeed when things get tough?  

Take advantage of that fresh semester feeling and sketch out a few goals. Whether you hope to maintain a certain GPA or develop relationships with peers and professors, solidify your idea of success for the semester and jot down a few action steps. 

Next, check your stuff. Here's a handy pre-semester checklist for tools and tech: 

  • Double-check that your devices meet the minimum technology standards for online classes at Ohio State.

  • Access your courses via CarmenCanvas (or other learning management system) as soon as possible to find course materials, announcements, grades and more.

  • Log in to your email to make sure you don’t miss important communication from the university or your instructors about your classes.


Track Your Time Commitments

Use a calendar and block off time for classwork each week to stay on track. Even if you don’t have an exam to study for or a paper to write every week, sticking to a schedule and using that time to plan or review notes can help you feel more in control as the semester goes on. For big project deadlines or exams, take a few minutes to review the course schedule in your syllabus at the start of the semester and flag important dates in your calendar.

Determine if your course is synchronous or asynchronous, or a combination of the two. You might think that you’ll be working completely independently in an online class and submitting work according to your own schedule, but that isn’t always the case. Research what to expect and how to be successful in each type of online class. Learn if the course requires any in-person commitments or group work that you will need to schedule throughout the semester. The course syllabus can be a great resource, and may even have time-management tips from your professor.


Be Proactive

Proactively communicate any concerns or issues to your professor. You might say: “I wonder if you could help me with a challenge that I’m having…” Your instructor may not be aware of barriers you’re facing in their course, so don’t be afraid to speak up and communicate about time zone challenges with live sessions, issues accessing materials internationally, limited access to technology, etc. The sooner you raise the issue, the sooner it can be resolved.


Make the Right Connections

Start things off on the right foot by introducing yourself to your instructor. Your class syllabus should explain how your instructor prefers to communicate, but feel free to ask them for clarification and gauge how quickly they respond to student questions. 

Your instructor may also hold weekly virtual office hours which are a terrific way to check in on your class performance and ask specific questions. Don’t be afraid to drop by or reach out to your professor. They’re here to help! 

Connecting with your classmates will also aid in your success, especially if the course requires group work. Familiarize yourself with the tools available to help you connect and collaborate digitally. You can use video chats, email, or discussion boards to meet your peers or even form study groups. 

Don’t be afraid to customize your profile or add a little personality to your online communications. You can use NameCoach to model the correct pronunciation of your name. You can also add your preferred pronouns to CarmenCanvas, Zoom and your email signature. Upload a (professional) profile photo or change your video background to reflect your interests or show your school pride. 

Last modified: 
February 6, 2024