How to be a Successful Online Learner

As an online student, you will interact with people using chat, video conferencing, email, social media and more. Online courses are not easier nor do they take less time than traditional classes. Being a successful online student requires independence, discipline, self-motivation and a few basic technical skills. Ensure you're prepared by watching the Introduction to Online Learning video and following these tips:

  • Have access to a computer with a fast, reliable Internet connection.
  • Know how to perform basic computer functions (saving and attaching files, creating folders) and navigate the Internet (using search engines, entering passwords).
  • Be able to communicate effectively and clearly using email or online discussion boards.
  • Have a study room that is free from distractions.
  • Be comfortable being online several times a week to participate in your course.
  • Be proactive in asking appropriate questions when assignments, concepts or homework solutions are unclear.

Time Management, Planning and Good Study Habits

Time management may be one of the most important skills for online students to master. Commit to an online study schedule as if you are attending an on-campus class. Plan to study at least two hours a week per credit and commit to those two hours at the same time each week.

Be disciplined in setting and maintaining a schedule to complete your work and provide timely responses to the instructor and other students. Choose a time when you can avoid distractions (checking personal email, perusing social media, television, family, social activities).

  • Set aside specific times each day for studying.
  • Make note of due dates of assignments and exams in your Canvas calendar.
  • Make a "to do" list of the items you have to complete each week.
  • Create a study environment that helps you excel. A quiet workplace without interruption from roommates or family is necessary for success in an online course.

Video: Organizing for Online Success (about 12 min.)

Basic Technical Skills

You don't have to be a computer wizard to enroll and succeed in online courses, but we do recommend keeping a few technical issues in mind:

You may need to brush up on some basic technical skills before taking an online course. If you do not have a lot of experience using computers for academic work, such as creating documents and presentations, email communication and uploading attachments, it is recommended that you take a computer course before attempting an online course.

You should have access to a computer with a fast, reliable Internet connection and adequate up-to-date software (Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer). Some classes have special requirements, so be sure to read about your specific course here: Online Introduction Letters.

Our preferred browsers are Firefox and Chrome. Please view Canvas technical requirements for more information.

Video: Getting Tech Ready  (about 12 min.)

Persistence and Motivation

Persistence and motivation are critical to meeting both the academic and technical challenges of being an online student. When you run into a challenge, don't give up, ask for help. Remember what your goal is and stay focused. Effective time management will help you avoid stressful challenges, so follow the time management tips above.

Communicate and collaborate with your family and employer. Completing a degree online is a big time commitment, and you will need their support and understanding.

Videos:Personal Support

First time online adult students

Netiquette (Online Communication Skills)

Communicating online is difference than communicating face-to-face because many of the social cues are absent. Communicate with your classmates, as this will help you feel connected to the class, even in an online setting. Online interaction will help increase your motivation and retention and your classmates can offer additional perspectives and suggestions that you may have never considered.
Use extra caution in the way you word things online and be polite and respectful to your classmates and instructor. This is important for avoiding misunderstandings and creating a positive and supportive learning environment.

Video:  Communication Skills for Online Learning (about 12 minutes)

Get Help

Acknowledging when you need help is important for success. Don't hesitate to contact your instructor if assignments seem unclear or you are having difficulty understanding something.

Contact your counselor to discuss any challenges that are having a negative impact on your work.
Look into the campus resources and assistance programs that are available.

Use the Online Support System and contact Technical Support Services if you are having trouble logging in or accessing information.