With COVID-19 prompting public school and university closings across the country, many students will find themselves forced to adapt to a virtual environment for learning. Fortunately, e-learning is far from impossible if you approach it with the right mindset. Below are several things I've learned can help get you through an online course.
Set aside "class time".
One of the most challenging aspects of converting to an online format involves developing the self-discipline to keep focused on classwork without an in-person professor providing concrete deadlines and consequences for failing to meet them. I've found that setting aside a certain period of time each day for coursework (as if I had a dedicated "block" for the virtual class) helps me keep those obligations fresh in my mind and prevents me from prioritizing "real world" tasks over my less tangible commitments.
Keep in contact with your professors.
Even if you're not ever in the same room, don't hesitate to reach out to your professor when you're struggling or have questions. They are still here to help you learn, and most are happy to use whatever means are available to them to communicate with you. Instructors may be more accessible in a traditional course format, but being off-site does not have to mean being isolated from the assistance you require.
I know that I personally struggle to work in front of a screen for more than an hour or two before experiencing a drastic decrease in productivity. Take advantage of the online format by getting up to move around or grabbing a snack before returning to the task at hand. Though you should by no means use this as an excuse to procrastinate, time away from a problem lets your brain get a better grasp of what you're dealing with and allows you to tackle it with a fresh perspective when you're ready to take a second look.
Don't be tempted to cheat.
I've known students who select online formats for their classes because they feel it will be easier to complete their assignments dishonestly without a professor's direct supervision. Keep in mind that the point of a virtual class is still to learn and that you're not helping yourself by copying someone else's work. Furthermore, many of the same tells that lead a professor to suspect you're collaborating with another student or plagiarizing someone else's work remain effective even in an e-learning environment. Don't think that you can get away with a breach of academic integrity just because no one is there to witness you do it in person.
Remember that an online class is still a "real" class.
I won't deny that certain classes are inherently more effective in a traditional format, particularly if lab or group work is required. However, just because you're taking a course virtually doesn't mean that the material you're learning is any less important or useful later on. Your professors will still expect you to study and put forth your best work; if you don't take the e-learning setting seriously, it will come back to haunt you later on. As with anything, you should always keep an open mind and be prepared to work around any obstacles that arise, whether you're online or in a traditional classroom.