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Whether you’re a current college student, beginning freshman, or returning to college after many years, you’ll probably consider taking at least one online course at some point in your educational journey. Online learning offers many benefits—maybe the biggest being the flexibility to attend class on your own schedule without traveling to campus. However, the freedom that comes with online learning can be difficult to manage if you don’t know what to expect and plan accordingly. 

Here are six tips to help you stay on track and be successful in your online class:

Take a Course Inventory
If you were taking a class on campus, you would make certain preparations prior to the first day of class, such as finding the building’s location on a map, double checking your class time, and reviewing what materials you should have for class. Online classes are no different. You should log into your Learning Management System as soon as possible and familiarize yourself with the layout of the class. Do you know how to post to the discussion board? Where can you find the syllabus and calendar for the course? Do you know how to contact your instructor? Although you may not have access to your course until the first day of class, some schools provide other ways for you to “practice” in the online environment. For example, eCore and eMajor students have access to the eConnection tutorial course, which is a self-paced course inside the Learning Management System, GoVIEW, that helps give new students a tour of the online classroom.

Make a Study Plan
Once you’ve reviewed the course syllabus and calendar, make yourself a study plan. Compare your school schedule to your work and personal schedule and designate specific times that you can devote to your assignments. Think of this as making an appointment with yourself. The most important part? Consistently keeping that appointment with yourself! Write it down, put it on your calendar, and make others aware that you are not available during those times. Plan ahead for midterm and final exam weeks when you may need to devote more time than normal to schoolwork.

Designate a Study Space
When it’s time to focus on your schoolwork, you’ll be most productive if you do it in a place that is comfortable and free of distractions. Try to avoid working from a laptop on the couch while your favorite show plays in the background, or skimming your course content while preparing dinner. When it’s time for your scheduled study time, you should do just that–study. Consistently sitting in the same place to work on your class assignments will also cause your brain to associate it with learning. It’s like telling your brain, “Okay, we’re in school now. Time to focus and get things done!”

Know Your Resources
Most online courses provide extra resources for students, but they only help if you take advantage of them! For example, students in eCore and eMajor classes have access to Galileo library services, embedded tutors and librarians, and Smarthinking online tutoring. It’s a good idea to research the resources available to you at the beginning of the class so you know how to access them before you need them. It also helps to know ahead of time that if you’re feeling a little lost,  there are places you can go for help. eCore and eMajor students can both find information about tutoring resources on our websites.

Be Engaged
In a physical classroom, students are engaged by attending class and participating in class discussions. Being engaged in an online class requires more self-motivation but is equally important for a successful outcome. Online students should “attend” class by logging in daily, even if it's just to check the discussion board. Participate in the class regularly by posting on the discussion board and interacting with your classmates. It’s also important to check your email daily, as your instructor may send announcements and reminders about the course.

Ask for Help
Feeling lost? Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor for help. Online instructors are just like on-campus instructors. They are there to guide you and have a vested interest in your success. Your instructor’s contact information should be listed in the syllabus for your course.  
If you have any concerns or experience any issues within a course, please do not hesitate to email your instructor using the class email tool as soon as possible. Most instructors will even set up a phone or video conference to assist you if necessary. And remember those tutoring resources you researched at the beginning of the semester? Now’s the time to use them! Knowing your resources is one thing, but you have to utilize them to make a difference. Don’t be afraid to ask for help—that’s what your instructor and Student Support Team members are there for! 


Download our Online Learning Success Infographic to use as an easy reference checklist during your course. Do you have any additional tips for being successful in an online class? Share your best practices in the comments below. 
Not only is Dr. Ray Broussard a UGA/USG eCore History professor still teaching in his 90s, but he’s also a World War II and Korean War veteran. eCampus visits Dr. Broussard’s home in Athens, Georgia for an update on his love of life and teaching.



We last interviewed Dr. Broussard in 2012, when we learned about his time in the Navy, his early teaching days, and his genuine surprise when he realized you really could teach History online. Today, he is not only the oldest, but also one of USG eCore’s most engaging instructors and consistently receives gushing comments from students in his course evaluations-- many who are amazed to learn world and United States history from someone who helped make the history.

At 91 years old, Dr. Broussard and his wife (a retired high school history teacher), haven’t been up for traveling as much, so he invited us to visit with him at his home. We arrived at his peaceful, quaint little house on the Eastside of Athens where he eagerly welcomed us at the door and guided us to the living room. Surrounded by family photos, shelves upon shelves of history books, and various naval memorabilia, we settled in on the couch for our chat. In Dr. Broussard’s own words, “History is not about the future. If any historian starts teaching about the future, stop listening. He is no historian.” Thus, we spent a lot of our time together speaking about his past and what influenced his career in higher education. 

His eyes sparkled as he recalled his early years as a graduate student and one of his professors, Dr. Carlos Castañeda, who was not just a mentor, but “almost like an uncle.” Dr. Castañeda, of whom the Perry-Castañeda Library at the University of Texas at Austin is named, played a central role in the early development of the Benson Latin American Collection there, which is considered one of the world’s foremost repositories of Latin American materials. 

With a double major in History and Spanish on the undergraduate level, Broussard was torn between the two when he reached graduate school. It was due to his close relationship with Castañada that he discovered Latin American Studies. According to Broussard, Latin American studies was really “whatever you want to make out of it; history, literature, and economics…” However, when he reached the doctoral level, he had to choose one because as he puts it, he “couldn’t write a thesis on all three.”

"History is not about the future. If any historian starts teaching you about the future, stop listening... they are no historian."

In his undergraduate years, Broussard spent a lot of time “taking various courses that
interested [him], but not with any particular focus or direction, educationally speaking.” Broussard says that if he could go back and speak to his younger self, he would advise him to “concentrate a little more.” He emphasizes the great importance of students focusing on something that really interests them, and it will come easily. Originally a chemistry major, Broussard found himself struggling to make Cs. However, he was making As in History without “even cracking a book,” he says. 

Today, Broussard’s excitement for history shows as he tells us about the book he is currently reading, Lucky 666: The Impossible Mission, about a B-17 bomber that flew a suicide mission into enemy territory during WWII, at one point making an emergency landing in the jungles of New Guinea. Stories like this one are of particular interest to Broussard because they took place in areas where he was actually stationed during the war.

 “I’m fascinated with what happened; it was an area of New Guinea in the Bismarck Sea. That’s where they were operating, and that’s where I was! On a little island on the Bismarck Archipelago called Manus.” 

While reading the book, he recalled reading in the newspaper at the time (1942-1943) about a new technique developed in the area called “Skip Bombing.” Bombers flew close to the water and dropped bombs onto the water, “skipping” them across the ocean to hit their intended targets. “This book is bringing back a lot of that, and filling in a lot of blanks of information that I didn’t have before.”

During his time of service in WW2, one of the less obvious challenges faced was the lack of sanitary conditions. Meline Bay in the Pacific “was a very miserable time for all of us,” he said. With no soap to clean or wash food trays, gastrointestinal problems were widespread through the troops. “And I’m not going to tell you anymore. It was pretty bad,” he said.

Broussard spoke with conviction as he reflected on the historical uniqueness of America. “This country is different than almost any other country, because of the way it started” during the American Revolution, he said. “They created a government where the people were in control,” but in the last 30 or 40 years, this appears to have become somewhat less certain, he explained.

Broussard’s love of history, country and teaching is what led him to eCore, the University System of Georgia’s online core curriculum (first two years of college). 

“Teaching is something I love to do. The more I did it, the more I loved it. That is why I’m still doing it, and I am grateful that they gave me an opportunity to do it when I couldn’t stand in front of a classroom anymore.” 

Broussard says he decided to retire from the classroom at the University of Georgia when his hearing deteriorated so much that he had trouble hearing his students. “But on the computer—no sound,” he says. Soon, Broussard was approached to teach an eCore history course; he thought it was “simply impossible” to teach online and that “it couldn’t be done.” Seventeen years later, Broussard can’t imagine life without his computer and the ease and convenience it offers him at his age. “I just have to get up to the computer desk and start punching those keys,” he says confidently, but not before revealing he “didn’t know beans about computers” prior to receiving a few lessons. 


Dr. Broussard and his family use Facebook as a form of extended communication.

Broussard has found online learning to be his preferred method of education. In 1966, Broussard had an average of thirty students in a class, but towards the end of his time in face-to-face instruction, he remembered looking out to a lecture hall of two-hundred and fifty students, having little participation. He began to evaluate how effective that form of teaching was, where he was only able to engage twenty percent of the class and found that “that’s not teaching.”

Even in smaller classes, he would find a number of students “scrunched down and not participating.” In online courses, discussion posts are required, which inspire student engagement. Broussard logs on every day to interact with his students, where he has found that most of the discussion in the course is between the student and himself, rather than student to student. He frequently poses challenging questions hoping to encourage his students to reflect deeply and “remember history as a story.”

"It's so good to hear history from somebody who's so old to remember so much of it!"

In addition to being highly engaged with his online students, Dr. Broussard also makes a
concerted effort to sway those who are not history fans. His advice for those who do not enjoy history is to, “just stop back and remember—history is a story. Look for the story.” And it seems that there are some students that appreciate the storytelling style of his online dialogue, as he still recalls a comment from one of his very first eCore course evaluations. “I still remember this one student wrote, ‘It’s good to hear history from somebody who’s so old to remember so much of it!’”

Toward the end of our time together, we asked Dr. Broussard what inspires him to continue teaching. He responded with what he calls his favorite expression, “It keeps my juices going. It gives me something to look forward to every day. You know, when you get along in years there’s not much that keeps you going. Some people just watch television all the time. I’m really not interested in television.” 

Students at most University System of Georgia institutions can enroll and register to take Professor Broussard’s introductory U.S. History course through eCore.


Have you taken eCore History with Dr. Broussard? Share your experience below.

Jessica Blakemore, Mia Bennafield, and Dr. Melanie Clay contributed to this article.  
Congratulations to UWG economics lecturer, Kim Holder on being named the 2017 UWG Employee of the Year! Kim received her B.S. in Economics from the University of West Georgia, followed by her M.A. in Economics from Georgia State University. She's actively engaged around campus, serving as an adviser for student organizations and a leader throughout the UWG community. Kim has recently received accolades for her National video competition, Rockonomix, which helps motivate student learning by using popular media to reinforce basic economic principles. 


Before she was the Best of the West and resident Economics Queen, Kim was an adult learner balancing a family and online learning in order to complete her bachelor's degree. We're diving deep into the archives today to revisit Kim during her time as an eCore student.

*This story originally appeared on the USG eCore website prior to 2008.

“As a little girl I often dreamed about what I would ‘be’ when I grew up.  It seemed that the world was full of so many possibilities that I wondered how anyone could choose just one!”  So begins Kim Holder, eCore student at UWG, on how her dreams seemingly got lost along the way as “real life” took over.  Childhood dreams of being a “schoolteacher” and/or a “veterinarian” seemed lost forever after marriage and two kids.  

But choices were made along the way that Kim feels make her “fortunate” and “blessed.”  All the possibilities that lay before her as a child and propelled her into college as a pre-med student logically led her to choose not just one “occupation” but several. The ones she chose were: wife, parent and stay-at-home mom.

Ten years later, after her personal dreams were safely tucked away like faded memories, several events caused them to re-surface.  Kim watched her little boy embrace the possibility of being “a shark scientist one day and a steam train engineer the next.”  The inner child of wonder and possibility in Kim was re-born.  Later, after “something inside [her] had been stirred,” Kim recalls, “a friend mentioned online classes you could take through local Georgia Colleges, [so] I began to cautiously investigate and a little bit of hope crept in.”

Now since the fall of 2004, Kim is about to finish her ninth eCore class, all 100% online. “eCore allowed me to return to school without having to wait until my children were both in school full-time which was my original plan.  Because of eCore I will graduate in 2008 instead of enrolling in 2008!  I saved countless dollars in babysitting and gas monies for the 1 ½ hour daily commute to Carrollton from home.  I was able to go to class in my pajamas after putting my kids to bed, and while sometimes it lasted until the wee hours of the morning, it’s hard to beat that kind of convenience.”  

 Kim sums up her experience so far by stating, “eCore gave me the hope to live my own dreams and to work towards what seemed, at times, to be an impossible goal.”  And true to her childhood dreams of multiple possibilities, Kim is seeking a “B.S. in Economics with a double minor in Chemistry and Biology, as well as the requirements to apply to dental school.”  eCore has not only helped give Kim the hope and tools needed to achieve her goals, but also a legacy she is passing down to her children.  According to Kim, “…parenting is not so much telling your children what to do but living your life so they can see the path you leave behind.”