Success in online classes requires discipline, positivity, active participation


Imposter syndrome runs rampant on any college campus, and the College of William and Mary is no different. Students, especially new students, have high expectations for themselves and they doubt their capabilities of ever succeeding in such circumstances. Now, more than ever, I expect new students will doubt that they belong here at the College due to the inevitable struggles and limitations that come along with remote learning.

Every student’s classes will be online for at least two weeks before all students are scheduled to move in, and many classes will remain fully or partially online for the remainder of the semester. I don’t think anyone enjoys online classes, and if they do, I highly doubt that they enjoy them more than in-person classes, but they make up our unfortunate reality for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t think anyone enjoys online classes, and if they do, I highly doubt that they enjoy them more than in-person classes, but they make up our unfortunate reality for the foreseeable future.”

As a way to ease the transition that is already emotionally difficult for many students from high school to college, one that will likely be more emotionally challenging due to isolation among students or difficulties learning outside of a classroom. In that light, I would like to present advice on what I learned from half a semester of Zoom and pre-recorded lectures at the college level. Of course, most students studied online at the end of last school year as well, but I am sure that the differences between high school and college are still present in an online setting. I know that I would have loved a list like this when I was a freshman to calm my nerves in preparation for classes, so make sure to take time for yourself in planning what works for you in the days preceding your first online courses in Williamsburg.

My most important piece of advice about remote learning is to act like you would act in an in-person class. Pay attention, take notes, participate and remember all of the other keys to success that you have likely learned throughout your education.

Of course, your professors can’t tell if you’re online shopping on your computer or texting out of the camera’s view, but that doesn’t mean that you should do either of those things. Your success depends upon your understanding of the material, and it’s pretty difficult to understand the material when you didn’t hear it.

You might be thinking that you’re a good multitasker, but it’s easy to get distracted, nonetheless. In a classroom or lecture hall, you would be focusing on taking notes, and you should keep that focus no matter where you are sitting.

Branching off that idea, you should keep the camera on in any Zoom classes if possible. It will hold you more accountable to pay attention, but it will also let your professors get to know you a little better. I’ve heard just about all of my professors ask for cameras on during every class meeting as a desperate means to be able to see the students with whom they’re talking.

Something else that I noticed last semester via Zoom was that everyone was quieter than they normally were when classes were held in person. I highly recommend participating as much as possible in your online setting. Many students are uncomfortable speaking when they are sitting in an empty room, or maybe they just find it awkward when they’re trying to find the perfect time to unmute themselves and interject. However, you cannot let some awkwardness stop you from being successful in your classes. Every professor has different expectations. Some may take participation into account for your grade, especially if the class depends on discussion.

Even if the class does not require participation, active participation is beneficial for learning. More importantly, you should not be too afraid to ask questions. Professors usually love and encourage questions, and any questions that you may have will help all students in class.

Obviously, some classes will be pre-recorded, and that makes it much more difficult to clarify a certain topic or to ask your questions freely. However, you can email your professors, classmates, or attend online office hours in order to get your questions answered. Those resources are easy to use and can only help you through the semester.

Finally, remember that you made it through high school already, likely with a very rigorous schedule and course load. Maybe, when you were sitting in class with the same students who you’ve known since you were in kindergarten, some of the tasks felt trivial, pointless or irrelevant to your future. But take a step back from your anxiety about a college course load and remember that one of the main purposes of high school is to prepare you for college. Even if you think that you skated by in high school without doing as much work as you should, you still developed important skills that you will use to your advantage for the next four years.

You are ready, and you do belong here. Trust me. And welcome to the College.

Email Alyssa Slovin at



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