6 Tips for Success in an Online Class

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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. 

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