8 Tips to Prepare for Online Engineering Classes

The journey to securing admission to a graduate-level engineering program is certainly no small feat. It involves diligently researching engineering programs across the nation, submitting applications, and eagerly anticipating the universities’ decisions. Yet, each step brings you closer to the moment when that coveted acceptance letter finally arrives. 

After the waiting period ends and you finally see the words you’ve been waiting for—“you’ve been accepted”—you might assume the most challenging part is behind you. And while it is cause for celebration, your work is far from over. Now, it’s time to prepare for your online classes so you’re equipped to excel on day one and beyond. 

Give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back and take a seat as we review eight ways you can prepare for your virtual classes. 

#1 Review the Program Material 

One of your first items of business includes reading all of the welcome materials the university provides. From broader content like the student handbook to more detailed information like the course catalog and curriculum requirements, it’s helpful to be knowledgeable about your program’s policies and procedures.  

#2 Create a Financial Plan 

Now that you’ve been accepted, it’s time to consider how you’ll be paying for tuition costs. There are several options available to assist you in covering the program costs, including: 

  • Scholarships 
  • Grants 
  • Federal loans 
  • Private loans 

When it comes to financial aid, those aren’t the only options available. The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s online engineering programs were tailored with working professionals in mind, so you can continue your current role while completing the program. Students who work while attending virtual classes often receive tuition reimbursement from their employers, as their degree will benefit not only them but also the company. 

#3 Ensure You Meet the Technological Requirements 

If you’re reading this from your laptop, you’ve already met some of the tech requirements for your program. However, you’ll need more than a functioning laptop if you want to be a successful online engineering student. You’ll also need: 

  • High-speed internet 
  • Specialized engineering software required by your graduate program 
  • Any hardware your program requires (such as mic and web cam) 

#4 Sign Up for Courses 

This may sound like a given, but the sooner you sign up for your courses, the better the selection will be. In addition, previewing the course descriptions in advance can give you a better idea of which elective courses align with your career aspirations and interests. 

#5 Create a Study Space 

As a virtual student, there’s nothing more important than establishing a silent sanctuary where you can listen to lectures, read the study material, and complete your coursework. We suggest the following tips when crafting the ultimate study space: 

  • Minimize distractions with the help of distraction-blocking tools like website blockers and productivity apps.
  • Experiment with different soundscapes or instrumental music to determine which types (if any) boost your concentration. 
  • Establish boundaries with family members in the household. Communicate your study schedule to minimize noise and distractions. 

#6 Learn How to Use Canvas (Our Learning Management System) 

There’s nothing worse than opening your laptop on the first day of classes only to realize you don’t know how to check your email, let alone log into the online learning platform. As a virtual student, it’s crucial that you feel comfortable using your university’s LMS.  

You can familiarize yourself by testing out important functions, such as how to: 

  • View, send and respond to messages 
  • Access course content 
  • Participate in class discussions 
  • Use the course calendar 
  • Submit assignments 

#7 Introduce Yourself to Your Professors 

Most faculty members appreciate nothing more than enthusiastic students—especially engineering professors. At UW–Madison, our professors are renowned in their specialties and enjoy teaching and working with like-minded individuals (like you) each day. In addition, introducing yourself can help you acclimate to the numerous ways to contact faculty, so you’re more than ready to communicate on day one of your classes. 

#8 Review Course Information 

As the first day of classes nears, your professors will start releasing their course materials, such as the course syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes and additional resources that you may find helpful throughout the course. It is also a good practice to get familiar with your university’s online library. Reviewing this information ahead of time will help you feel prepared long before the first day of classes. You might even be able to get a head start on the coursework! 

Match Your Engineering Aspirations with an Online Engineering Program at UW–Madison 

As one of U.S. News’ leading online engineering schools, UW–Madison knows a thing or two about preparing our students for our graduate engineering programs. We offer a selection of premier online programs to choose from, so you can count on the bountiful benefits that come with being a virtual Badger: 

  • Flexibility
    You can complete many online courses at your own pace at a time that’s convenient for you.
  • Small Class Sizes
    Enjoy the perks of smaller class sizes, like forming deeper connections with your fellow classmates and professors — not to mention more engaging and enriching discussions. 
  • Frequent Start Dates
    Not sure when you want to start? Don’t worry! Most of our programs accept students in the fall, spring and summer, so you can start whenever it’s right for you.  
  • Custom Curriculum  
    Work with an advisor to create an individualized program of study based on your undergraduate degree, current role, timeline, interests and career goals. 

Browse our online programs and choose the one that’s right for you!