General Education

10 Ways College Students With ADHD Can Succeed in Online Courses

10 Ways College Students With ADHD Can Succeed in Online Courses
The ADHD brain does better with structure so synchronous online courses—those that are not self-paced—may be the best way to ensure you'll remain focused. Image from Unsplash
Tracey Goodwin and Holly Oberacker profile
Tracey Goodwin and Holly Oberacker November 5, 2019

The ADHD brain thrives on new experiences and online courses certainly qualify.

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Taking online college courses can have many benefits, including flexibility and a range of courses available. It may be more manageable financially and provide access to a college that a student might not otherwise have. For college students with ADHD, there is an added benefit of being able to choose their own learning environments and finding the best time of day for optimal learning.

On the flip side, online courses present their own set of challenges. For example, you can sign in to the class but no one knows if you are entirely distracted the entire time. Online classes are sometimes more difficult as they often require more independent work with less class time hours. They may move at a faster rate, there might be posts that need to be updated regularly, online quizzes and tests might only be available during a certain time period, and if your classroom is your living room couch you can see where this may go bad quickly!

We aren’t saying that the ADHD brain won’t be successful here. What we are saying is that there must be a solid plan in place long before the first day of class. The novelty of an online course and the excitement of working at your own pace will be quite engaging at first. However, when reality sets in that there is a lot to be done strategies will have to be well thought out in advance.

10 Ways College Students With ADHD Can Succeed in Online Courses

  1. Do your research. Look for access and ease of using the college’s online library and discover what types of remote tutoring support is offered as well as 24/7 tech support.
  2. Contact fellow students. Everyone in online classes works at a different pace and there may be many of your online classmates that have already figured out the problem that you are stuck on. You can post a question on a discussion board and will likely get a quick response since some of your classmates are likely to be online doing the coursework.
  3. Look for synchronous courses. The ADHD brain does better with structure so synchronous courses—those that are not self-paced—may be the best format. These courses typically follow a traditional coursework schedule with specific due dates for homework and weekly remote check ins. However, some students may find that managing an asynchronous course works better as they can revolve their studies around other aspects of their lives.
  4. Make a plan. Having a beginning, a middle, and an end is important when thinking of planning and prioritizing. Be sure that you think of your goals and ask yourself where you want to be when you complete your online degree. Create action steps so that you can determine how many classes you will need to take each semester. Be sure that there is one on one career counseling as this will be an essential component of your education as you near the end of completing an online program.
  5. Talk to your professor. Communicating with professors is critical to finding success with online courses. Even though your relationship with your professor is one of distance he or she is still there for you to ensure you are mastering the material.
  6. Use a calendar! Whether it is large or small planning and prioritizing will be critical to your success. Remember if you think an assignment is going to take an hour to complete count on it taking two. Always double the amount of time you give to completing a task.
  7. Set reminders. Use reminders on your phone, set your alarm, write yourself notes on large sticky post-its; do whatever it takes to remember when you need to be posting on a class board or engaging in an online discussion. These elements of online courses is where your biggest challenges may occur.
  8. Find external resources. Khan Academy and YouTube are great resources for finding “how to" guides and step by step processes on completing all types of assignments.
  9. Set yourself up for optimal alertness. Have a cold water, fidget, snack, extra pencils, paper, gum, and whatever else you feel is essential with you before the class begins or before you sit down to work.
  10. Be professional. Taking online courses is a job so treat it this way. Create a plan and work hours for your course work and then add in your activities around it. Remember it is your plan so base your studying hours around your high mental energy times.

If you find yourself getting discouraged, remember you are not alone. There are resources available to help you and sometimes you simply need to review your study plan to remain confident and positive to find online course success. The ADHD brain thrives on new experiences and online courses certainly qualify.

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