A student doing a Recorded, Self-Paced Courses

How to Get the Most Out of Recorded, Self-Paced Courses

Catholic Homeschooling Online

One of the best things about asynchronous online education is the student does not need to be physically present in a classroom at the time instruction is being given. Classes are prerecorded and can be accessed on any day and at any time by the student. This makes scheduling much more flexible! Can’t make that 4:00 PM math course because of a soccer game? Easy. Go play soccer and watch the recorded lesson later. Out sick for a few days? No biggie. Watch the recordings when you’re feeling better and get caught up.

At Homeschool Connections, many students take advantage of our Unlimited Access program, which is exactly what the name implies — “unlimited access” to ALL of our recorded courses for the entire family. The advantages are many. Just a few to mention…

  • When a course your student needs isn’t currently offered as a live, interactive (synchronous) course.
  • When a student needs to pick up or slow down the pace of the course.
  • When there are budgetary concerns (recorded courses are more affordable than live).
  • When a student (or parent!) wants to “binge-watch” courses purely for personal enrichment.

Of course, there can be tradeoffs as well. A recorded, self-paced course does not offer a student the real-time back-and-forth that comes with a live course. Students who are not self-disciplined may struggle with staying on task. And many students miss the direct instructor feedback. However, these trials are easily surmountable. Over the years we have found that there is a method to using recorded courses successfully. In this post, we are going to cover seven tips for getting the most out of your recorded courses…

1) Carefully read the course outline and all course materials before beginning.

When jumping into a recorded course, it’s important to know what you are getting into exactly. It’s always good to familiarize yourself with course materials before any course, but in a recorded course it becomes essential. I have seen students sign up for recorded classes and found weeks into the course that they were missing a required textbook or lab materials. Or, they didn’t realize there were essay-writing assignments. Knowledge is power, and going into a recorded class “fully armed” with knowledge of the course details is the best preparation you can get.

2) Read the course assignments ahead of time and make a semester plan.

In a recorded course, staying organized is key! Browse the coursework for the entire semester so you have an idea of what your workload will be. Since recorded courses are completed on your own timetable, it’s helpful to have a sense of how that work needs to be divided. For example, “Okay, there are 15 classes and 5 labs, which means my son needs to be completing a lab every three weeks,” or “Looks like the book is 400 pages; she needs to read about 35 pages per week.” This helps the student understand what they need to be doing weekly and how to gauge progress.

3) Have a dedicated day and time to watch the recordings.

Since recorded classes can be watched anytime, it can be tempting to procrastinate. Students prone to procrastination or who are “organizationally challenged” should keep a planner and dedicate a specific day & time for their recorded classes and coursework. “I will watch the history class every Wednesday after lunch”, or “Thursday morning is when I work on chemistry homework.” This injects structure into the recorded format and keeps students accountable. Obviously, you want to maintain the flexibility that recorded courses allow. However, setting aside a dedicated time will go a long way. If your student is taking multiple recorded courses, I recommend organizing them on a spreadsheet to keep everything straight (see Homeschool Connections Free Forms).

4) Have a notebook available for class notes each session.

This is honestly something students should do for any course, live or recorded. However, in recorded courses, it is of special importance. In a recorded class it is easier to disengage, to feel like you are passively “watching” something instead of participating in a real class. Taking notes helps connect the student with the instruction and it builds a sense of participation that is essential to an enjoyable course experience.

5) Pause and finish later if you get burned out or need more time.

While it’s important to have structure and organization for your recorded course, ultimately the great benefit of recorded courses is their flexibility. If you need extra time for whatever reason, feel free to stop your class halfway and pick it up another time. In other words, stay organized to stay on task, but don’t neglect to put the flexibility of recorded courses to work for you when it is needed. Have a plan but work at your best pace. Your course plan exists to serve your student, so if changing it serves your student’s needs better, then change it.

6) Sign up for Instructor Access, where available.

Instructor Access means paying an additional fee to have an instructor grade your student’s work and give them feedback, just as they would in a live course. This provides the one-on-one instructor connection that many students thrive on. Students are required to keep a schedule in turning in assignments to the instructor. It also provides an outside authority, which some students need, i.e., a student dawdles when mom reminds them to do something, but when the instructor reminds them, they are more motivated. If your student thrives with that teacher-student contact, then definitely sign up for Instructor Access when it is available.

7) Treat it like a live course.

I didn’t want to wrap up this article without getting feedback from the students themselves. I went to the Homeschool Connections’ Student Café (online forum) and asked the students for their best tips on how to get the most out of recorded courses. They brought up the importance of keeping to a schedule, taking notes, etc., but one thing many said was, “Treat it like it’s a live class.” That is, give your recorded course the same attention, energy, and preparation you would any live class. This will maximize your student’s engagement.

These tips on how to homeschool online will help you experience the benefits of recorded courses and to stay on task!

What do you think? Visit us and let us know in our Catholic Homeschool Community. If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


Here are a few extra helps for you… 1. Accountability Mentoring. This is a one-on-one service for students. 2. Homeschool Coaching. This is a one-on-one service for homeschool parents. 3. “How to be an Excellent Student Note Taking, Test Taking, and How to Get an A”. This is a short four-class course for 6th- to 12th-grade students available in both live and recorded formats from Homeschool Connections.
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