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Quick Tips for Success in an Online Course

Note: We’re re-running this story written by a former academic advisor at the Sanger Learning Center. As the university prepares to move classes online, we thought our students would find these tips helpful.

I took my first online course exactly ten years ago this fall. Everything about that first class felt foreign to me. Getting used to the way things were presented felt like an even bigger hurdle than the course material itself. I’ve learned a lot since then. Here are five tips to help you achieve success in your online course.

1. Adjust your expectations

I found out the hard way that I had to adjust my expectations. I received a zero on the first assignment—my first failing grade ever. The feedback I received was exactly what I needed to hear: “This was not the project you were assigned. Read the syllabus and assignments carefully and ask questions if you are unsure.”

You can’t make assumptions with an online course or wait around for someone to help you. You have to be your own champion and seek out the resources that will help you succeed. Remember: you are solely responsible for your success or failure in an online course.

2. Gather the troops

Human beings are social creatures who learn through interaction. Much has been written on the correlation between deep learning and social interaction in online learning environments. Of course, if you are enrolled in an online course and don’t know any of your classmates, injecting social interaction is easier said than done.

Some courses you’ll encounter will be better at fostering a sense of community than others. Even if this is not the case for your particular course, you’ll have to create that sense of community in the class if you want to succeed. This could mean reaching out to one of your online classmates, scheduling a Zoom meeting with a professor or TA, or taking advantage of academic support programs available via phone or video conference from the Sanger Learning Center. Involve friends and family in your journey and share your successes and hardships. Consider starting a support group on Facebook. Anything that creates a sense of community around the course can be helpful.

3. Draft a plan of attack

Once you’ve surrounded yourself with a support system and feel comfortable asking questions, it’s time to create a study plan. What are your goals for the course? How do you plan to achieve these goals? You might need some help from your support system to stay on track. Discover what keeps you motivated and how you learn best (including when, how, and where). A learning specialist at the Sanger Learning Center can point you in the right direction.

Regardless of your learning style, be mindful of your study space. The last time I tried to watch an online lecture in bed, I fell asleep. Avoid studying in your bedroom and choose a communal study space instead.

4. Stay positive

When it comes to online courses, you have to to keep yourself on task, stay motivated, ask others for help, and do most of the work by yourself. It’s only normal that there will be days that you will not be as motivated. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just remember to stay positive and make sure to get yourself back on track if you fall behind.

5. Reward yourself

Being successful in an online course takes dedication, perseverance, and a great support system to keep you motivated. Remember to reward yourself for doing a great job.

A student satudies on a laptop behind the Littlefield Fountain