Online classes became common during the pandemic, and often professors were creating their classes very quickly and with very little help. There are absolutely best practices for how to create and administer online education, but not all professors are aware of these best practices or able to implement them. In reality, that means that there is huge variation between how different professors in different subjects will run their online courses. And unfortunately, as a student, you have relatively little control over how your online classes are designed. That being said, there are some things you can do to make sure that you are successful in these classes, regardless of how they are set up.
1. Don't let an online class become your last priority. Online classes, especially asynchronous ones, tend to require more self-discipline and organization than in-person classes. Because you aren't seeing your professor and classmates face to face on a weekly basis, it can be easy to think of your other classes as "real" and not spend enough time or attention on the online class. Unfortunately, when you fall behind in online classes, it can also feel harder to ask for help or catch up, again, because of that lack of face to face connection. You'll need to be diligent in reaching out to the professor and getting help when you are confused since you don't have that regular face to face opportunity.
2. Organization, organization, organization. Block out a time weekly when you always complete the work for your online class. Make sure that you look ahead and have deadlines marked on your calendar, then set aside extra time for bigger assignments or exams. Again, with online classes, it can be very easy to just wait until the day everything is due, then hop into the modules and see what's there. That works fine if all you have to do is a quiz and some book work. But if you log in at 10pm and realize that you have to do the quiz, book work, and a research assignment, that can be a LOT harder to successfully complete and can make you feel totally panicked. And it will be even worse if you end up needing help with the research, only to realize that office hours were earlier that day and you missed them. Don't let this happen to you! Keep your eyes on what's coming up and make sure to create time to do that work.
3. Go to office hours sometimes. It can feel really intimidating to drop into office hours with a professor you have never met. But I promise, we don't bite. When you need help, ask for it. Why do I say office hours instead of an email? Because, the professor can help you more thoroughly and clearly on zoom or in person than they can via email. I'm not saying you should never email, but you will always get a more thorough answer if the professor can talk to you, ask questions to clarify what you're struggling with, and answer verbally instead of typing out the answer.
4. Take the class seriously. This point is a lot like point number one, but it bears repeating. Work carefully on the assignments, pay attention to the questions you're asked and the answers you're giving. Don't turn in written assignments that you haven't proofread or that are full of incomplete sentences. In other words, don't rush. I think sometimes with online classes, students default to the way they treat other online forums like reddit, twitter, or tiktok. But online classes are part of your college education, and you'll only get out of it what you put into it. You're paying a lot of money to be in college, voluntarily. So make sure you're really putting in the effort to learn and get something from every single class you take. If you don't, then you're wasting your money and time.