Writing is a demanding activity; it demands concentration and rigorous attention to time. In general, however, it is possible to survive—if not thrive—in most online writing courses by paying attention to the following guidelines. The road may still prove difficult, but it is definitely possible.
Study: As common sense as it sounds, a good way to be successful in your online writing courses is to study. A good rule of thumb is that a student has to put in two hours of work outside of class for each hour inside class to achieve a passing grade.
Begin written assignments well in advance: A professional writer figures four hours of work for each finished page. This includes research, drafting, revising, and editing. A beginner writer may expect to put in more hours.
Be prepared for class: Pay attention to every word. Don’t attend your classes to simply take up space. Be prepared to participate when you attend your courses.
Take notes: Review your notes every day and directly before your next class. Tests and quizzes include information discussed in class—even if it is not “in the book,” so continually reviewing your notes will help you remember parts of class that are not specifically mentioned in your textbook or course pack.
Find a trusted person who takes good notes in case you miss a class. Also, be able to summarize in paragraphs all of the material covered in class. It is not enough to copy down diagrams. Quizzes and exams sometimes ask you to verbalize your class discussions.
Find a study partner: This is invaluable since another person can read your essay before you turn it in and find errors that you might take for granted. Also, study partners can help each other in finding ideas and preparing readings for your class.
Read carefully: In writing classes, you are generally responsible for understanding the readings even if they seem difficult. Follow the “SQ3R” principle: skim the material, finding main points; ask questions and seek answers; then read, reread, and be able to relate the material in your own words.
Know the grammar: Use The Grammar Dictionary to check your essays and to look up grammatical terms that may be used in your course. There is no excuse for not knowing the grammatical terms discussed in your class, even if you claim that you can’t remember them from previous schooling.
Pay attention to language: Exact language creates exact thought. Always double-check your spelling and punctuation marks.
Pay attention to detail: Be meticulous in your writing. Proofread all of your work aloud. Then proofread it again by reading the piece aloud sentence by sentence—but start from the end of the piece. This way it breaks up the thought pattern in your mind so you can focus on what exactly your sentences are saying.
Rewrite regularly: The secret to all great writing is rewriting.