Ask Emma: What if I can’t pass my online classes?

Think about why you specifically struggle; only take time off as a last resort



Ask Emma suggests creating an accountability system and utilizing the Access Center to be more successful in online courses.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear Emma,

I am terrible at online classes. Last spring was by far my worst semester grade-wise, and I don’t think I can pass another semester not being completely in-person. I’ve already heard from several of my professors and none of my classes look like they will have a face-to-face component.

What should I do?

Barely Passing

Dear Barely Passing,

I am sorry to hear online school has been so difficult for you. I know that a lot of people at WSU go there for the in-person experience and none of us expected to have such a dramatic change in learning style. 

My first suggestion for you is to think about why online classes are so difficult for you. 

Is it because being online makes it easier to skip lectures? I know that was a problem for me last semester because I thought I would have time to go back later and watch recorded lectures, which really just put more stress on me for dead week and finals. 

If this is the case, try setting up an accountability system. Maybe that means checking in with a friend in the class when you log-in to Zoom, or letting your parents or roommates know you are going to be in class beforehand. That way, someone else knows you are doing what you should be and can call you out if it seems like you have been missing class.

Maybe your problem is that online lectures aren’t as engaging for you, or there is no synchronous lecture component at all. For that, my suggestion is to try a new method of note-taking or reviewing, which may help you engage with the material more, even if the presentation of it is less interesting. 

Perhaps your learning style just isn’t conducive to being online, which is perfectly valid. This is a bit more difficult because you will have to think about what specific parts of being face-to-face help you learn, and then try to replicate that in your at-home environment. 

If you consider the possible reasons online learning is difficult for you, come up with ways to address them and still think you will struggle, I recommend doing two things.

The first would be to talk to your professors or the Access Center about potential accommodations. Even if nothing changes, it is still worth asking in case there is something they can do for you.

The second would be to consider taking a semester off. It is difficult to rationalize spending tuition money if you think you won’t succeed in your classes. However, I encourage you to think thoroughly about ways you can improve your performance in online classes before you resort to this option — mainly because if you stop going to school it will be a lot harder to start again later on. 

Overall, my recommendation here is to spend some time thinking about your problem and ways you could specifically address it. I know that will be difficult and you probably already did something similar last semester, but if you start thinking about it in advance, I believe that will help immensely.

Good luck!


Got a question? Write to us! Ask Emma can be contacted by emailing [email protected]