Professor Reveals Secret to Doing Well in Online Classes: Sit in the “Front Row”


I’m often asked for advice about helping students manage the new school formats that are coming in Fall 2020. I know why: As a professor of educational psychology and as an academic life coach, I do carry a few insights about what makes or breaks a student’s experience with online and/or hybrid courses. I’ve worked with hundreds of college-age and college-bound students over the past 20 years and I’ve seen the full range of successes and struggles.

There’s a nice list of tangible steps each student could and should take to learn at their best–which means with the least amount of overwhelm and the most amount of comprehension. I can sum up the secrets to success in just one statement: Sit in the front row.

academic life coach
The secret to doing well in a virtual classroom is one thing: Sit on the front row. (Twenty20 @Korneevamaha)

Where is the front row in a virtual classroom?

If you feel confused by what it meant here because the classes aren’t in-person–how can someone sit in the front if there is “no” classroom? Think about the very source of the confusion. Most of us have a longstanding perception of what “school” looks like and it isn’t sitting in your kitchen counter in pajamas. That is the first step to doing well this semester: Reconsider how you perceive where teaching and learning can happen. Stop resisting the change and embrace the possibilities of the new process. This mindset is an excellent start toward success.

The next step for students is behaving like you would IF you were in person, and you sat front and center in the class.

We all know how that behavior differs from when you sit in the back row, slumped in a chair, doodling, whispering, daydreaming. I see it each semester in my teaching.

What front row students do

Front-row kids focus their eyes on the teacher. Front-row kids take continuous notes. Front-row kids nod and engage with what is being said. Front-row kids sit up straight. Front-row kids get there on time or early to get a good seat. Front-row kids have organized notebooks and pens.

When classes are virtual, you still have the chance to be a front-row student.

Do all these things, and you will have a good semester, no matter the format. Other life problems may arise; such as health crises, financial worries, domestic stressors. Address these to the best of your ability, seeking help as possible.

There are many resources available to you and I hope you’ll use them fully. But then go right back to the first row. Sit in the “front and center seat” of your classes, focus on them for the duration needed, because your future deserves it. And it’s a very, very bright one.

More to Read:

50 Things Teens Can Do When They Turn 18 – Here is a list of everything that teens are able to do once they are 18.

Virtual Volunteer Opportunities for Teens – This will give your teen some ideas a bout how to find a virtual volunteer activity.