Posted in Being an Online Student

Why You Should Talk to Your Professor if You’re Struggling in Class

One of the most common things that I see with online students is that when they are in a time of crisis, or even just struggling with a concept in class, they often do not reach out to their professor. They’ll call their advisor, or whoever they feel closest to at their school, and ask for help from them instead.

An advisor, admissions counselor, or other university/college representative typically cannot, and, most of the time, should not, be involved in your classwork. Advisors can help connect you to university resources, assist with academic appeals (if needed), and can visit with you about the things you are going through but they cannot change a grade, teach you a concept, or decide to allow you to submit late work- that’s what your professor is for!

It’s important to remember that professors are there to help you learn. They are not in the business of judging you for failing to understand a concept or for having a family emergency.  Remember, while the professor knows the material well- after all, they typically have an advanced degree in the topic- it’s okay to need a little extra help if you don’t understand. If you were already an expert, you wouldn’t need to be in school! Additionally, if you have a legitimate reason for struggling to keep up with coursework, a good professor isn’t going to judge you for that. Remember, your professor is human and a lot of students experience setbacks. It’s okay!

What isn’t okay is letting yourself struggle without talking to your instructor. A lot of the students I hear from are concerned that the instructor will judge them or see them as “not tough enough” for school if they need help. I have not met a professor who does not care or doesn’t want to hear from a student when they are in need. Most professors care deeply about their students and want to see them succeed. That’s typically why they became an instructor in the first place. Additionally, your instructor doesn’t know what’s going on if you don’t tell them and, truthfully, they’re going to judge you a lot more harshly if they have to guess why you are missing so many assignments/class sessions. Put yourself in their shoes- would you feel more compassion for the person at work whose mother just passed away or the person who is chronically late with assignments, but you just assume is lazy because they’ve never told you otherwise?

During the course of a semester, I hear from a large number of students who are experiencing difficulty for one reason or another. Approximately 90% of the time, these students have not spoken with their professor- which is a mistake. As an academic advisor, I’m going to refer you to the professor for questions or concerns about their individual course. In fact, at the university I work for, I am required to do this.

Communication with your professor is extremely important. So, next time you find yourself struggling in a class, experiencing an unexpected outside event, or experiencing difficulty completing coursework, notify your professor!



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