The following is a list of academic tips from CSU professors, administrators and the Success Center to help students succeed on their educational journey through CSU. These suggestions are meant as important guidelines students need in order to do well in their online studies. They are not inclusive of all the advice instructors, administrators and CSU staff offer, but these are some of the most important.
12. Submit assignments individually: When possible, CSU students are encouraged to submit assignments one unit assessment at a time and wait for the feedback from the course instructor. “Many times students submit all their assignments at once for the entire class,” said adjunct professor Jamie Gauthier. “The disadvantage to this approach is the student does not have the opportunity to make any recommended areas of improvement provided by the course professor, and if they are not on track, students’ grades can ultimately suffer.”
11. Show enthusiasm: If you really like a course, don’t be afraid to let it be known. “You add to the energy of the course when you share your ideas, ask questions, and offer feedback,” said adjunct professor Caridad Jimenez. Chatting with fellow students and professors fosters communication that could answer questions and resolves some issues or just leads to interesting and fun conversations.
10. Review feedback: Feedback from professors is a great learning tool. Several educators advised students to examine the feedback from test, essays and assignments to gain insight on an issue or error. The comments are meant to be constructive and assist you in learning and growing. Also, if you want direct feedback, please ask your instructor. If you need clarification regarding what your professor is stating in the feedback, send an e-mail to him/her.
9. Preview test: If you could get a glimpse of the future, chances are you might make some changes in the present. Well, previewing the assessments at the end of a chapter or section allows you to do just that by prepare yourself as you read. Members of the Success Center suggest printing and reviewing each assessment before beginning the reading assignment. This allows you to familiarize yourself with the assessment questions and make your reading more effective. “Read both the multiple choice and the essay questions. When you read the chapter, you may find some answers and/or information for the essays,” added Monica Marquez, a Success Center specialist.
8. Use resources: Students are encouraged to utilize all available means of information when completing their assignments. This includes using the assigned textbook, interactive presentations, additional readings, the CSU library and online resources that have been approved by the professor. “ In addition, students are encouraged to take full advantage of the CSU Success Center in helping them with any issues with writing, proof reading, formatting, reference sourcing and articulation abilities,” added Gauthier.
7. Kill time-wasters: Trying to do too much at once is one example of wasting valuable study time. Juggling too many things at once can mean none get done effectively. College of Business Undergraduate Chair Sonya Rogers suggests keeping a calendar that allots where exactly time is being spent each day. This tracks your time and helps you set aside some quality study time to focus on your assignments. “The art of concentration is to eliminate distractions, if possible. Focus on the task at hand and prepare for additional tasks in advance,” she said. “With the many unexpected obstacles that occur in life, it is keen to implement a Plan B just in case things should go awry.”
6. Stay motivated and positive: Do not let one bad grade keep you from moving on, whether it’s an assignment grade or a course grade. “GPA is very important when gauging academic progress, but a less than perfect 4.0 is also OK,” said Tina Shipp, director of Quality Assurance at CSU. “I think that sometimes students strive for that perfect score, and then get disappointed and lose interest in their studies if they make a “C” or “D” on their course.” Talk with your adviser or professor to learn how to improve your grades and achieve your goals.
5. Don’t procrastinate: Waiting to the last minute to complete an assignment can lead to many problems. Poor comprehension, writing errors, misunderstandings and incomplete work are just a few. No doubt several CSU professors have seen students’ grades fall because of last-ditch efforts. “It’s always better to work on your courses consistently each week and not wait until the last minute to submit assignments,” advised Shipp. “That way, you can review the feedback provided by the professor and use it to improve your next submission.” Gauthier offers students this idea: Piece your essay together each day over the week, and by the end of the week, you’ll have a final product to proofread and ultimately submit it for grading. “Planning ahead is key in helping reduce the stress of completing the assignments within the required due dates,” he added.
4. Review content: Reading over the assigned text a second time is good way to ensure your understanding and catch things you might have overlooked. However, students should apply good note-taking skills and focus when reading or re-reading content. Also, when reviewing notes and/or text, academic experts say using visual cues can help retention and clarity. “For example, students should utilize tools such as charts, diagrams, graphs, lists, outlines, or even drawings in order to better grasp the content in an organized fashion,” said Rogers. When reviewing content for an essay or writing assignment, adjunct professor Benita Fox recommends careful examination of the reading and the questions to find hints and answers. “It is important here to apply critical thinking skills,” she explains on her FAQ announcement page. “It involves looking at subjects and ideas objectively, gathering all information and then drawing conclusions about the subject based on evidence rather than reacting to information or ideas based on emotion.”
3. Note taking: One of the most important academic tips offered is good note taking. Multiple studies have shown that writing and summarizing thoughts and ideas is crucial to studying well. Note taking is considered part of the memorization process, short-term and long-term, and helps ease the load on the working memory particularly when dealing with complex problems. While highlighting ideas and words is good, it’s better to actually write and organize your notes. “The most commonly known barrier that inhibits most students from experiencing success in academics is due to a lack of effective techniques applied to the preparation of studying for exams,” explained Rogers. “Students should attempt to create a pattern of writing/note taking that contains organization in the form of an outline; including all key or significant terms that can easily be related to the vast amount of information or material read or discussed prior to the time of an exam…” One method of note taking is the Cornell Note-taking System which offers a systematic format for condensing and organizing your notes.
2. Plan and prioritize: Planning is one of the most important factors to studying well. A good plan helps you avoid being overwhelmed and behind on your course assignments. This is particularly important for online students who have busy life schedules. Planning helps you visualize your goals and manage your time accordingly. Members of the CSU Success Center advise at the beginning of each course that students review the course syllabus, course requirements and assignment deadlines. Then, make a plan of when things are due and what is expected and stick to it. The center also suggests you make sure that you have time set aside each day to work on assignments. This will help you progress through your course(s) in a timely manner and lessen your stress.
1. Ask questions: Communication is undoubtedly the No. 1 piece of advice CSU educators and staff enthusiastically recommend! “If you are having difficulty with the course, do not hesitate to contact your professor or the Success Center and ask for help,” urged Shipp. “We truly understand that it may have been many years since you last attended college, and you might need a refresher on some information or concepts. We are here to assist the adult learner as well as the young freshman, just ask!” Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your professor, advisor and the Success Center are here to help you succeed in your courses. If you have an opportunity to connect with other students in your course(s), do it. “Communicate with your classmates and professor!,” echoed Jimenez. “A virtual classroom means you have a teacher and classmates. Be active, participate and connect to create a successful learning environment.” Whether it be your student representative, teacher, adviser, classmate or a Success Center specialist, you are encouraged to always ask for help. Remember: “Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.”