Veronica With Four Eyes

Tips To Stay Organized In Virtual Classes

I took sixteen virtual classes in high school and over three dozen hybrid or fully virtual classes during college, and often prefer online classes over in-person ones because I find it easier to stay organized and use assistive technology. I know a lot of students with vision loss (inclusive of low vision/blind) have talked about struggling with organization skills, so today I will be sharing my favorite tips to stay organized in virtual classes, and different strategies I use to keep up with assignments.

Have a folder for each class

I organize my files at the beginning of every semester and have dedicated folders for each of my classes, especially my virtual classes. For some of my virtual classes, I go one step further and create additional folders for homework, quizzes, and lecture materials such as PowerPoints or readings. Not all professors require students to edit or upload documents for their classes, but it’s still helpful to have everything in one place. I go into this process more in depth in the post “How I Organize Digital Files For My Classes”, which is linked below.


Documenting software and accessibility settings

Instead of uploading files to the course website, some of my classes require students to use another program for completing assignments. For example, my first calculus class used MyMathLab for homework and quizzes, and my first programming class required students to use a specific IDE for programming assignments. When the semester began, I documented which software I used for each of my classes and if I had to enable any accessibility settings. Here’s an example of what that might look like:

  • MTH 161: Assignments and quizzes completed in ALEKS system, free response questions completed in Notability. For tests, enable Accessibility View/High Contrast
  • CDS 303: Free response questions are typed in Microsoft Word, with screenshots from IDE uploaded to Word document. Font size may need to be adjusted for screenshots- use keyboard shortcut to change font display
  • IT 106: Assignments are emailed in PDF before class and collected via secure link in email. No course website, students need to ask professor for additional materials. Notes are stored in Microsoft OneNote
  • SWE 205: Class discussions are done on Blackboard and Piazza, both required each week. List of additional course materials websites and links to digital copies of books from library
  • MBUS 301: All assignments completed on Pearson website, include link and information on how to use screen magnification tool

Related links

Downloading everything

If it’s posted on the course website for students, I download it. After an incident where I temporarily lost access to course websites, I started downloading copies of notes, presentations, assignments, and other downloadable content as soon as they are made available. I also download copies of digital textbooks and store them in my class folder. If I find that I don’t need something, I can always delete it later.

Related links

Make note of when assignments are due and when they are posted

I finished one of my assignments shortly before midnight on a Sunday and was very proud of my work, until I realized the assignment due date had changed to 11 PM on a Saturday. My professor accepted the assignment when I realized my mistake (as many students had done the same thing), but from that point on I would document when assignments were due each week, and when I could expect new assignments. For me, it helped to add reminders to my Amazon Echo Dot and my Outlook calendar, so that I could get notifications when away from my computer or check information by asking Alexa/Google Assistant.

For many professors, new assignments are posted on Mondays and due on Sundays, though this is not always the case. This information is usually mentioned in the syllabus.

Related links

Try to get ahead on assignments when possible

Some of my classes automatically post new assignments when the previous week’s assignments are turned in, or post work for several weeks in advance. Since I have an unpredictable chronic illness, I would try to do assignments in advance if I finished assignments for the week early, so that I didn’t have to worry about getting behind on assignments. Alternatively, I might complete all of the discussion board posts or other short types of assignments by doing all of my reading in bulk one afternoon.

If I was behind on assignments due to chronic illness, I would meet with the professor to come up with a plan to catch up. One common strategy was to complete the assignments for the current week and then go back and do assignments for a previous week, or turn in two weeks of assignments every week until I was caught up.

Related links

Testing accommodations for virtual classes

I have a post about remote testing accommodations for low vision that I use in my virtual classes, and some examples of testing accommodations for virtual classes I use include:

  • Ability to enlarge text/zoom in on page
  • Use of assistive technology, such as screen readers or screen magnification
  • Permission to wear tinted glasses
  • High-resolution copies of graphics/images
  • Alternative proctoring options when necessary
  • Using a separate device for the exam

Since my Disability Services file is written with in-person proctoring in mind, I typically arrange a meeting with my professor or send them an email to talk about how I will take tests/quizzes for their class, or talk to Disability Services about what to do.

Related links

Use internet browser extensions to help with virtual learning

I use a few different internet browser extensions and tools to help me stay organized in virtual classes, including

  • Simplified reading displays for enlarging text and making it easier to read
  • Light filters to minimize eyestrain
  • Bookmarking tools/folders for keeping track of websites
  • Reading assignments and information out loud with text-to-speech
  • Captioning tools for following along with videos
  • Blackboard Ally for converting my assignments into different formats

Related links

Don’t just use the computer

Being stuck at my computer for hours can be exhausting, so I use a few other mainstream technology devices to help me engage with virtual classes. This can include:

  • Reading information on my eReader, which does not have a backlight
  • Displaying class assignments on my tablet that I can hold close to my face
  • Casting my screen to a larger display with Google Chromecast
  • Going through flashcards with a custom Amazon Alexa skill

Related links

More tips to stay organized in virtual classes

I have taken over 50 online classes- here are my favorite tips to stay organized in virtual classes, from a student with low vision