Welcome to AIU! You have made one of the most important decisions in your life: to go back to school to pursue your degree. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but remember — you're not alone on this journey, and there are plenty of tools and resources at your fingertips to provide as much support as you want.
Your first class, which expands on what you learned in your orientation class, is designed to help prepare you to be a successful student. This is a great time to find out more about who you are as a student and acquire skills that you will use throughout your time at the university. Remember, your instructor and Student Advisor also will be available to assist as you become acclimated to the online classroom and different types of assignments.
To help you get off to a great start in these crucial first weeks, the AIU Student Advising team drew on their experience working with students like you to create this list of seven tips to help you succeed in your first class (and beyond!).
- Read your instructor's feedback. Besides a grade, your instructor may also provide comments about your assignment as well as possible tips on future assignments. These comments will also break down the points you earned and the points you did not. This is valuable feedback, so don't miss out on the opportunity to figure out your areas of success, possible areas for improvement and/or additional resources to help you understand the topic. To find your assignment feedback, click on the "Grades" box at the top of the Virtual Classroom. To find your instructor's comments, click on the icon in the Feedback column of your gradebook.
- Listen to live chats. One of the best ways to learn about the subject you're studying is to listen to your instructor talk about it! As a subject matter expert, your instructor will be able to review the topic, break down the week's assignments, and answer questions. If you cannot attend the chat live, you can listen to it at any time (and however many times you want) as all chats are recorded and archived. You can find all recorded live chats, the live chat in progress, and the schedule of future live chats by clicking "Live Chats" in the purple "Meeting Times" box in the Virtual Classroom.
- Create good habits. As author Shawn Achor says, "Our daily decisions and habits have a huge impact upon both our levels of happiness and success." In terms of your schoolwork, it is important to start making good habits now, so that in a few months they become so natural that you follow them without a second thought.
Habit 1: Check your school email daily. Your instructors, Student Advisor, Financial Aid advisor, and other departments may only email your AIU account, so not checking it could mean you miss important updates and deadline information.
Habit 2: Regularly check for new Announcements in your classroom, found on the Virtual Classroom homepage. These contain important information that your instructor wants you to know, such as their contact information and office hours, reminders about assignments, and helpful tips and information.
Habit 3: Look ahead. Check your assignments every Monday to help you plan your week and avoid unneeded stress. Knowing what's coming will allow you to schedule your time accordingly so you have the time you need to dedicate to each assignment.
- Set daily, manageable goals. There is so much to do in any given day that it can be easy to push school to the backburner. Don't do it! This may cause you to fall behind, and it's much harder to catch up than stay the course. That is why it is so important to create a work-life-school balance. By reviewing your assignments at the beginning of each week, you can create daily goals, such as having a rough draft done by Friday, or having the first Discussion Board post done by Wednesday night. Write down your goals and share them with your family; your goals should also be their goals. A great way to do this is to use a planning app on your phone, computer or tablet or buy a planner or calendar to keep track of your deadlines and due dates.
- Read, read, read! There's a lot of new information coming your way. We don't expect you to know it all or have it memorized in a day, but there is a wealth of information in your classroom that's meant to help you succeed. As mentioned above, check your Announcements regularly. Know where to find your course books; there is a link to your bookshelf in the Resources section of the classroom. Also remember to review the Learning Materials, also found in the Resources section. Instructors will include additional materials about each unit's topic, resources for papers, and more. Finally, make sure to read the assignment detail carefully before starting each assignment.
- Communicate with your instructor. Your instructor wants to talk with and help you! Unfortunately, many times students don't communicate enough with their instructors. If you are struggling with an assignment or have a question about your reading, your instructors should be the first people you go to – they can't help you unless you tell them you need it! Live chats are a great way to speak to your instructor in real time, as are weekly office hours. Your instructor's email address is in the Course Information box in the Virtual Classroom's homepage as well. Some instructors may also include alternate contact methods in an Announcement.
- Take a library tour. You will use the library throughout your program to find articles and web sources for your papers. It also has great information about APA citations and usage. The library will end up being your greatest resource in your program, so it's good to know how to use it early and often. Not using the library would be like benching Tom Brady in the Super Bowl – you'd be sidelining your best player! Get familiar with the library by taking one of the many library tours offered each session. You can find them in the library under "Library Classes and Events" or in the "Come take a tour of the library this session!" announcement.
You're ready to succeed at school and armed with the tools you need to do so. Good luck, and remember - if you have more questions on succeeding in your first class and first session at AIU or need assistance at any time throughout your educational journey at AIU, don't hesitate to contact your Student Advisor.
Looking for more tips on how to do your best at school? Read our College Success blog.