Last Updated: March 31, 2020, 2:28 pm

How to survive, thrive in your online classes


Each student attending DSU has gone fully digital to adapt to the unusual circumstances presented by COVID-19. Students can survive and thrive with these changes by openly communicating concerns and questions with their professors to help guide them through the rest of the semester. Photo by Jessica Johnson.

Stressed, concerned, uneasy, confused… these are all emotions you might be feeling right now with all of the chaos surrounding COVID-19, but do not panic.

Transitioning from your traditional classes to a completely new schedule of rigorous online courses during the middle of the semester sounds impossible, but Dixie State University has gone fully digital to adapt to the unusual circumstances presented by COVID-19.

Despite the overwhelming situation, DSU students can survive and thrive in their online classes through the use of these tips and strategies:

Communicate with your professors.

“Our department was given time to have a contingency plan in place, and as such, I felt I was prepared to deliver my materials to the students in a timely and effective manner,” said Nate Staheli, associate professor of accounting. “There will still be some pitfalls, but honest and clear communication will enable us to overcome those challenges.”

Staheli said before the break, he was able to discuss the possibility of an online environment with his students so they were not surprised when this change occurred. Communication is key between professors and students to be successful despite this tremendous disruption. 

“Right now, my focus is on connecting with my students on an individual level, recognizing the apprehension that they may be feeling and eliminating any unnecessary stressors in my courses,” said Kisa Smith, humanities and social sciences part-time instructor.

Smith said she has made several adjustments to her class to help alleviate some pressure her students may be feeling. She has extended due dates, made all remaining assignments available for submission, offered extra credit opportunities and scheduled Zoom video calls for class discussions so students are able to communicate with her effectively.

“If you have questions, ask fellow students, your professor, [and so on],” said Wendy Schatzberg, associate professor of chemistry and director of the Center for Learning and Teaching. “Each new concept is building a foundation of knowledge, and lacking a firm foundation can make learning problematic in the future.”

Manage your time wisely.

Ashtyn Ochoa, a junior exercise science major from Thatcher, Arizona, said her plan to tackle the transition to online classes is to have a set time to study and work on her notes and assignments.

“Making a checklist and keeping a planner also helps me stay motivated and keep my life on track so I don’t forget anything,” Ochoa said. “I like to write my plan down and include every last detail on it.”

Smith said a quick tip to managing your time includes setting alarms on your phone to remind you about virtual class sessions and Zoom calls. Remember to consider possible time zone differences if you have moved out of state.

“Students need to set a routine that is consistent and effective,” Staheli said. “Establish the routine and stick to it. Treat your day like you would normally, write out your plans for the day, including virtual appointments, assignments due, [and so on].”

Ochoa said she writes out all of the due dates she knows about in her planner to organize her time and checks Canvas every day.

“Checking Canvas frequently is imperative,” Staheli said. “Most, if not all, faculty are utilizing this valuable resource. Here you will find announcements and help to navigate your courses.”

Work on all of your assignments in advance instead of procrastinating and using your time in a wasteful way, Smith said. Do not leave all your coursework for the last week of the semester. It can pile up quickly if you do not manage your time wisely.

“It can be easy to forget an assignment deadline, especially with many things going on right now,” Schatzberg said. “A calendar, such as an online or paper calendar, can be a great help in remembering all the different due dates.”

Canvas also has an online calendar that shows your assignment due dates, events and other important information.

Eliminate all outside distractions.

It is easy to get distracted while trying to learn or do assignments digitally because you are no longer in the classroom setting, Smith said.

“Find a quiet place to study and turn off all distractions: phones, TikTok, Netflix, [and so on],” Smith said. “Many students have moved home and are in different living situations, but it is still important to find a place where you can concentrate and focus on coursework.”

Staheli said to limit the distractions by finding a quiet place to work outside or within your residency. Do not do homework or study on your bed; try to mimic natural academic settings so you can perform your best.

“Others will understand and are in your same position, so invite them to be respectful of your time needed to be successful as a student,” Staheli said.

Schatzberg said eliminating distractions can lead to more class engagement and student success. 

Take care of your physical and mental health.

If DSU students do not take proper care of their physical and mental health, it can be very difficult to stay focused and excel in their online classes, Smith said. 

“Being adaptable is a valuable life skill and this is a great opportunity for all of us to grow. Life doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s important to learn how to roll with the punches, be self-disciplined and stay optimistic about the future, regardless of roadblocks you may encounter along the way.”

Kisa Smith, humanities and social sciences part-time instructor.

“Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthy and stepping away from technology often to take a mental break from the news and social media,” Smith said.

Staheli said it is important to set time aside for yourself to regroup and relax. 

“Don’t be too glued to the device or computer,” Staheli said. “You need to get out and connect with other things in your life.”

Ochoa said it is essential that students remember the initial reason DSU moved all traditional classes online. With a dangerous virus disrupting everyone’s daily routines, our health should be our biggest priority.

“I think it’s important that each student is mindful about the symptoms of Coronavirus and [that] we’re monitoring our own health,” Ochoa said.

Acquire a positive mindset

Ochoa said the semester may not be ending the way DSU students expected it to, but that does not mean they should give up on striving to be a great student.

“I know there are faculty and students with frustrations, as I have them sometimes; however, I quickly realize that there are probably individuals and family who have it worse than me right now,” Staheli said. “The Dixie Spirit will survive this issue as it did when this area was first settled.”

Schatzberg said she has had the ability to see DSU rise to the challenge because of her position as director for the Center of Teaching and Learning. There will be problems, but DSU students and faculty can acquire an upbeat attitude to make the situation better.

“My advice to everyone is to look forward to the next semester and finish this one to the best of your abilities,” Ochoa said. “Do not let this adversity defeat you.”

Smith said she is actually excited to transition to online classes. It is a great opportunity for both professors and students to really see and experience the value that online learning provides.

“I view it more as an opportunity for professors and students to learn how to be adaptable in all situations,” Smith said. “Being adaptable is a valuable life skill and this is a great opportunity for all of us to grow. Life doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s important to learn how to roll with the punches, be self-disciplined and stay optimistic about the future, regardless of roadblocks you may encounter along the way.”

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