Grades! I hated it when some kid in my college biology class would interrupt an amazing discussion on how food was broken down in our mouths to ask the painful question “is this going to be on the test?” While I admit that I felt like I was more there to learn than many, I acknowledge that in a world where we are judged off standard performance metrics like grades we need to at least consider how we are to be graded. I have since let go of the idea that my worth is attached to a grade and I think that would be wise to everyone else that has a tendency to avoid the reality that grades matter. They matter to future employers, they matter to future schools and programs and they matter in the online college world.

Without providing you with some magic spreadsheet that can calculate what you have to do to meet the bare minimum requirements to pass a class I want to give you an idea how grades work in the world of online college. These ideas are not unique to the online classroom experience.

You can look initially for a grading scale or chart on your syllabus. If it is not there, there should be a link to how you will be graded for a given class somewhere in your student administration webpage. What you see may need to analyzed to get some important information from it.

You may see something akin to the following:

Requirement Frequency Total Points per assign. Total Points

Lecture Interactions

Weekly 8 10 80
Quizzes Weekly 8 10 80
Journal Entries Weekly 8 15 120
Thought Papers Weekly 8 15 120
Midterm Test Once 1 200 200
Final Test Once 1 200 200
Total Points Possible 800


For me, a grading scale like the one above can show me where I need to spend my time. If I know that both my weekly journal entries and thought papers are 15% of my grade each, for a total of 30% I know that I should be spending roughly 30% of my allotted time on them.

You may also try to estimate (feel free to ask your professor to get some ideas on this if you are not completely sure based on your own experience) the amount of time it takes to prep for a quiz, complete an assignment or study for a test. With this information and knowing how many assignments there are, you can get a good idea of how long you’re going to need to plan on spending to successfully complete the course. Keep in mind this will vary depending on your familiarity of the subject. You may also double the time so you’re safe if any unforeseen research or study needs to be done. If you do this and don’t use the time they you have a bonus!

One other thing that’s good to do once you get these estimates is to block out the time on your online college calendar for these events. When the time arrives, show up and do the work. This is sometimes one of the hardest parts of succeeding in online classes for students, they don’t know how plan their time well. This can happen more readily if you don’t know what you’re required to do. However, by knowing what you’ll be graded on you can more easily plan to succeed. Clarify any questions you have with the teacher, preferably after class or during one of his scheduled available times.

Good luck! Grades are why you’re there, but they can reflect your commitment to learning the subject. Don’t freak out, just know how you’ll be scored, plan out your time for each requirement and get to work learning!

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