Tips & Tricks from Michelle: Online Students Need School Supplies Too!
Many people who are beginning online courses probably have the same thoughts that I did. But don’t make the same mistake! My first term with Ivy Bridge, all I had was my computer and the books that were shipped to my house by MBS Direct. No pencils, no paper, nothing. This made it so much harder to be successful. Yes, I took notes using Microsoft Word and folded page corners to mark important information in my books, but that first term of learning online could have been so much easier if I had just a few simple supplies.
Here’s what you need:
- A Planner
This may seem unnecessary since each class includes a calendar outlining your readings and assignments for each week. But having all the readings and due dates for assignments, for all of my classes, all in one place has paid off more than once. The ability to look at a page and see exactly what I need to do and when I needed to have it done has been priceless in helping me manage my time effectively.
For example, last term I had three assignments (usually 3-4 page papers) due on Saturdays. By being aware of that pile-up, I was able to work on my time management skills and finish some of this work before Saturday came along so that I wasn’t overwhelmed on Friday night. Writing everything down in one place, where it can be viewed at a glance, prevents the stressful experience of surprise deadlines!
- Pencils and Pens and Highlighters, Oh My!
I always write in my planner in pencil, so that my notes can be easily changed if something comes up. I use multi-colored pens when I take notes, so that I can emphasize different topics and important points. And, I’ll admit it, I was once the type who wouldn’t write in my textbooks because it kills the buy-back value, but there is almost never any real value, because a new edition is almost always published. So go for it—use highlighters! If you highlight passages that might work as a citation in a paper while you’re reading, it will save a lot of time when you’re writing later on. A note about highlighting, though—try not to highlight entire paragraphs or pages. Instead, aim for key phrases, or if the entire paragraph is important highlight the margin along that section instead of the entire block of text.
- Post-It notes
I use these all the time. Flag the chapters that need to be read each week, and write the general subject of each chapter on the edge that sticks out of the book. Use them to stick notes in your book (especially if you’re skittish about writing in it, like I am). The possibilities for using Post-Its are endless.
The need for notebook paper did not strike me until I took my first math class. It was just impossible to solve algebraic equations by typing them into Microsoft Word, so I got myself a notebook, and it quickly became invaluable. I was able to work through problems and then reference back to my notes and assignments before quizzes, without having to skim pages in the e-book for the course. I am now a complete notebook convert and use notebooks to take notes for all of my classes. It was nice to have all of my notes in neatly formatted Word documents, but with the help of Post-Its and colorful pens, my notebooks are something that I can navigate just as easily as a computer document.
- A Backpack
This has a two-fold purpose for me. One, I’m able to keep all of my books, notebooks, planners, and writing utensils in one place that can easily be moved into whatever room I am working in. Two, it keeps my toddler from scattering my school stuff throughout the house. Even though I rarely leave the house with my school stuff, it’s nice to have it all in one place.
Overall, it’s necessary to have supplies whether you’re going into a physical or virtual classroom. The things that I use are part of a system that I have honed for almost a year, and are suggestions for things that could help you. Take a minute, and think about what would help you be successful. Do you need a planner to help manage your time? Or will a backpack ensure that the dog doesn’t chew on your textbooks? The ideas above are intended to act as a framework you can adjust to your own needs and learning style.
Do you have any suggestions for items that may make it easier to succeed as an online student? Share with everyone in the comments below!
Michelle is a current student enrolled with Ivy Bridge College and the author of the monthly Tips & Tricks from Michelle column for The Bridge Blog. Follow her on twitter at @BloggerMichelle.