These Tips for Success have been compiled from successful online learners and faculty. They focus on how you can best prepare yourself for online learning experiences. Try these, modify them to fit your own style, and add new ones as your experience grows.
Succeeding from the Beginning
- Read, read, read. Read all course information and/or the syllabus very carefully. Look for details about the course requirements, assignments, testing procedures, media and technology used, schedule or due dates, and contact information. If you do not find details about these topics, ask your instructor at the beginning of the course.
- Contact Instructor. Contact your instructor to ask any questions you might have about the course requirements, assignments, testing, special software or materials needed, etc.
- Become Familiar. Become familiar with the course design and navigation. Contact your instructor or technical support with questions about features you do not understand.
- Update Personal Information. Advise your instructor immediately of any changes in your personal information, i.e. email address, phone number, etc. Update your own personal information with the College. If your name is different in the course from what the College has on your transcript make sure you alert your instructor of this discrepancy in an email in the course.
- Meet Your Peers. Get to know other people in your class through discussions, chat, email, etc. Relationships with your online peers can help support and encourage you throughout the course.
Developing Study Habits
- Be able to communicate through writing. In an online course, nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that you feel comfortable expressing yourself in writing.
- Be prepared to study hard. Avoid interruptions and distractions while you are working on your course.
- Be self-motivated and self-disciplined. With the freedom and flexibility of the online environment comes responsibility. You need commitment and discipline to keep up with the flow of the course.
- Participate. Contribute your ideas, perspective, and comments on the subject you are studying, and read your classmates' postings. Your instructor is not the only source of information in your course--you can gain great insight from your peers and they can learn from you as well.
- Do not assume that your online course is easier than a face-to-face course. In fact, expect to spend as much or more time studying as you would for a face-to-face class.
- Keep up with assignments. Do not let yourself fall behind.
- Read, read, read. Read all the materials and access the hyperlinks your instructor posts.
- Study in a place that is comfortable and free from distractions. Take stretch breaks every 40 to 50 minutes.
- Be able to meet the minimum requirements for the program. The requirements for online classes are no less than that of any other quality educational program. You should view online classes as a convenient way to receive education not as an easy way.
- Do not procrastinate. Don't wait until the last minute to do assignments or take tests. Allow time for technical difficulties--the web will be slow at times, and servers sometimes go down unexpectedly. If you get your work done ahead of schedule, you will have time to deal with any problems that may arise.
- Communicate often. Check your email often, and respond promptly to your instructor and fellow classmates.
- Keep established and recommended deadlines. It is much easier to stay on schedule than to catch up when you fall behind.
- Keep a Calendar. After studying the syllabus, mark deadlines, test dates, etc., in a calendar. Mark items off as you complete them.
- Log in to your course every single day. If you start doing this you will develop a habit of staying on top of the course and will not fall behind if you also complete your assignments on time. If you let a week go by without logging on to your course, you may get behind and find it very difficult to catch up.
- Be willing and able to commit to about 5 to 10 hours per week per course (depending on discipline). Online learning is not easier than the traditional educational process. In fact, many learners say it requires more time and commitment.
Completing and Submitting Assignments
- Read instructions carefully. When in doubt, ask questions. This helps you get to know what your instructor expects.
- Be prepared to apply critical thinking and decision making skills. Rather than repeating facts, your online instructor may ask you to make decisions or solve problems based on information you have gathered and processed.
- Remember that your instructor is available to instruct and facilitate your learning. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Unlike in a face-to-face class, your instructor does not know you are confused, bored, or frustrated unless you tell them!
- Allow a reasonable amount of time for instructors to respond to email. Most will try to respond as soon as possible or at least within 48 hours.
(Adapted, Miami Dade College, 2015)