The Student Guide to Successful Online Learning

This document covers fundamental concepts designed to help you be successful in your online courses. Online learning requires more active participation than traditional classroom learning but also provides you with the freedom to set your own schedule and study from the comfort of your own space instead of a classroom. To be successful in your online courses, you will need to be self-motivated and engaged, and most importantly, you will need a plan. This guide will help you create your plan for success.

Getting Started With Online Courses

  • Ensure that you have consistent and reliable Internet access. Since just about everything you will be doing for your course will be online, regular Internet access is a must.
  • Take some time to become familiar with the tools you will need to participate in your online courses. Explore the tools provided to ensure that the technology works on the computer you will be using.
  • Refer to the syllabus and course materials frequently to become familiar with the objectives, assessments, and deadlines. Print the syllabus and place it somewhere where it can be quickly reviewed, such as a workspace or a notebook.
  • Consider your learning objectives and ensure that they align with the instructor’s goals. Creating notes that relate to your objectives can foster a conversation between you and the instructor at the beginning of the course, setting the appropriate expectations.
  • Establishing an understanding of the instructor’s office hours and response times can also be covered in a one-on-one meeting with the instructor if their hours and response times are not apparent.
  • Online learning requires self-motivation. Take some time to develop habits that work for you specifically when it comes to time management and study practices. Review your assignments and get started on the work as soon as possible. Starting early on your tasks will ensure that you have time to study properly and succeed in your online courses.

Study Tips

  • Set up a dedicated workspace that is distraction-free, well-lit, and comfortable. Gather your supplies and a beverage or snack before sitting down to study or attend class. Close all distractions on the computer, including social media sites and chat programs.
  • Take breaks to maintain focus and avoid fatigue. Studying for 30-45 minutes and then taking a short break away from the computer will help you stay focused and retain the information you’re learning.
  • Offline study tactics such as writing notes down or creating visual aids can help you retain the information covered during your classes.
  • Make a plan by creating a weekly schedule of your deadlines and study hours to make sure you have time set aside to complete your assignments on time.
  • Using a color-coding system in your study calendar or agenda will allow you to identify different due dates quickly.
  • You should acknowledge procrastination and address the risk immediately. Identify if the procrastination is caused by something you can resolve or if you should reach out for help to remove any roadblocks.
  • Find a study partner who can help you clarify requirements and complete assignments on time.
  • Take notes and review them immediately after class. Taking notes will encourage you to remain focused, and studying them after class will make sure the notes are clear and can be relied on later on.
  • Bookmark any resources you’ve found helpful in your studies so you can easily access them later in your courses.

Effective Communication

The WRITE Way to Communicate Online

The WRITE Way to Communicate Online is a set of helpful guidelines for effectively communicating in an online community.

  • Warmth: Two-dimensional reading can lead to an overreaction due to the lack of warmth or human cues like tone of voice. If online comments are a source of frustration, pick up the phone and call the instructor or classmate for clarification.
  • Responsiveness: Due to the asynchronous nature of online communication, it’s important to not assume that a lack of a response is a personal attack. Check the syllabus to identify instructor response times, and verify that the instructor is not out of town. It is essential for students to ask questions as soon as possible to give instructors or classmates an opportunity to respond before an assignment is due.
  • Inquisitiveness: If the objective of a response is not clear, defensiveness should not be the first response. Students should ask clarifying questions if they are unsure about or disagree with a topic or answer.
  • Tentativeness: Tentatively framing a question will significantly reduce defensiveness in conversations with opposing opinions. For example, instead of using a statement, combine inquisitiveness and tentativeness to create a clarifying question: “Do you think it would be better if we…?”
  • Empathy: Students should ask themselves, “How would I feel if someone approached me like this?” before responding to the instructor or classmates.

Preparing for Success

  • Striking a school-life balance is critical to your success. Stick to your study schedule, and when you’re finished, walk away from studying and focus on your life.
  • Use the available resources to get assistance when necessary. The instructor or discussion board are available for course-related questions. The IT department is available for technical support. Fellow students are an excellent resource to look to for study tips and tricks.
  • You should remember that learning anything new is challenging. Don’t get discouraged when you run into a challenge: Keep trying, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • If you are unable to meet a deadline, make sure to communicate with your instructor as soon as possible. Do not wait until the deadline passes to reach out to your instructor. They will be more likely to work with you if you are up front about your challenges.