Online Student’s Manual for Success

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Innovative teaching and learning platforms are giving online students unprecedented opportunities to earn a college education on their terms. However, online courses present unique challenges and often require an adjustment period, especially for first-timers. The following guide helps future and new online college students avoid common pitfalls, improve academic performance, manage their stress and time effectively, and find valuable resources. Learn what it takes to excel and make the most out of your online education.

Common Mistakes to Avoid as a New Online Student

Making the move to the digital classroom isn't as easy as it sounds – even for experienced students. Start your path to success by dodging these common mistakes:

Assuming your classes will be easy.

Because online students have less face-to-face interactions and complete tasks at their own pace, it's easy to assume distance learning will be a breeze. But students need to remember that classes are just as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts.
The Smarter Plan
See if the school has an online tutor or consider using one of the tutoring companies discussed in this guide. Students also need to think about how to reframe studying and taking exams to maximize online learning.

Ignoring a course's technical requirements.

It's one thing to understand email and social media, but online courses often require students to use a range of different technologies in order to fully participate and get the most out of their learning.
The Smarter Plan
As shown in our online learning glossary further below, there are lots of technical terms that come with distance learning and the most successful students take time to familiarize themselves.

Not creating a dedicated study space.

One of the joys of online learning is that it can be done from any location that has a computer and internet; however, students often need a dedicated, organized space where they can write papers and study for exams.
The Smarter Plan
Whether it's a desk in your room, a kitchen table, or a well-loved coffee house, try to establish a dedicated study space early on in your online college career to make the most of your time and lessen distractions.

Procrastinating on assignments.

Without having to set foot in a classroom multiple times per week, it's easy to lose track of time and let assignments sneak up on you. Worse still is not having established boundaries to protect against time spent watching the latest Netflix series or looking through social media.
The Smarter Plan
As we'll discuss later, creating a framework for time management helps students complete work in an efficient manner and balance school with other responsibilities.

Believing you're all on your own.

Since online students aren't likely to ever meet their professors or peers in person, it can sometimes feel like they're going it alone. For the student who is willing to make the effort, there are lots of opportunities to engage.
The Smarter Plan
So you may not walk to lunch after class together or be able to stop by your teacher's office, but today's online programs utilize many different technologies, such as webcams, to engage learners. Online tutors can also help students who are struggling with coursework.

Thinking you'll get away with cheating.

Cheating is a serious matter when it comes to academic ethics, and it may seem far easier to get away with using text that isn't your own, taking a test with materials nearby, or looking up answers. However, online learning platforms are very sophisticated and professors have learned to recognize the telltale signs of a cheating student.
The Smarter Plan
Rather than trying to cheat the system, students who get the most out of their educations hold themselves to high standards and aren't afraid to ask for help if they need tutoring or their current study skills aren't translating well to the online learning arena.

Not being an active participant in class.

Because online students aren't always called on to answer a question in class, they may find it easy to disengage and only do the bare minimum that's required. This mentality, however, does a disservice to the student, their peers, and the professor.
The Smarter Plan
Start slow. Try voluntarily answering one question or contributing to one discussion per class and work up from there. If you're still more comfortable conversing outside of class, consider setting up a weekly chat with a few classmates on Skype or another messaging platform.

Losing motivation.

Especially for students with personal and professional commitments, it can be hard to stay motivated when your plate feels so full. Instead of dwelling on these feelings, successful students know how to keep the end goal in mind.
The Smarter Plan
Students should make sure they're being social both in and out of the virtual classroom and surround themselves with people remind them what they're working towards.

How to Take Your Study and Test-Taking Skills to the Next Level

Students who have spent their formative educational years in a classroom may be wondering how to best adjust to the rigors of online learning without sacrificing academic performance. Online students are given a unique experience to learn at their own pace and with less constraints than campus-based students, but that also means they must be vigilant about maintaining good study habits.

10 Study Habits of Successful Online Students
Step 1
Take up bedtime studying
Rather than catching up Netflix, take time to review your study notes about an upcoming test. Recent studies have shown that our brains are good at retaining information we take in just before resting.
Step 2
Break up marathon study sessions
Instead of spending 10 straight hours cramming for that psychology exam, try breaking up study sessions into smaller segments. Your mental energy will thank you and you'll find it's easier to remember things.
Step 3
Create a study schedule
Like eating breakfast or working out at the same time, students who create a study routine and have the discipline to stick to it are able to study information over a longer amount of time instead of staying up late the night before.
Step 4
Connect with other focused students
No matter the facet of life, focused and successful people inspire those they're around. Find a study buddy whose work ethic you admire and set up an online review session with them.
Step 5
Clear your space
While it may seem counterintuitive to take extra time to clean your room or office before settling down to study, a study by Princeton University found that people who keep their spaces clean are able to process information and focus better.
Step 6
Shut off technology
When you sit down to study, put your phone on silence and set ‘do not disturb' messages on any online messaging services. This will help keep you from getting sidetracked.
Step 7
Take your own notes
When listening to a webinar lecture, don't rely on getting notes from other classmates. We each have our own style of note-taking, and chances are you won't understand as much of the information if you just read their notes rather than taking your own.
Step 8
Ask for help
If you're studying and realize you don't understand a concept or theory, reach out to your professor or classmates as soon as possible for clarification rather than trying to go it on your own.
Step 9
Take advantage of online resources
As shown throughout this guide, there are tons of apps to help students study, ranging from timed practice quizzes to flash cards. Use these to better prepare for an exam and get in the mindset of what to expect.
Step 10
Stay mentally and physically healthy
Online students are likely to spend more time at their computers than traditional learners, making it imperative to take breaks, go on walks, get the recommended amount of sleep, and eat foods that nourish their bodies.

Taking Online Tests: Everything You Need to Know

Although the format may be different, advances in technology have made online testing very similar to what a classroom-based student expects. Lots of schools now use software allowing either a virtual proctor to observe them via webcam or technologies that assess a student's behavior on their computer to ensure ethical standards are followed. Regardless of the format, the tips and strategies given below help students do their best before, during, and after the exam.

  • Know the guidelines
    Find out when to log in, time limits, and if you need a proctor.
  • Think about format
    Will there be an essay or is it all short answer and multiple choice?
  • Use practice tests
    If available, find time to test yourself before the real thing.
  • Find a good test-taking spot
    Whether your room, office, or elsewhere, find a quiet place to focus.
  • Pay attention to time
    Consider setting an alarm at intervals to stay on pace.
  • Don't write essays on the test page
    Using a program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs ensures work isn't lost and also helps with spelling and punctuation.c
  • Alert professor to tech issues
    Instructors will be used to this, but they need to know what's happening. Take a screenshot of any errors for proof.
  • Check work
    Before pressing the “submit” button, review answers to avoid careless mistakes.
  • Self-assess
    Reflect on the questions, review areas of uncertainty, and consider why some questions were challenging.
  • Review grades
    Some may be available instantaneously, while exams with essay or short-answer components take longer.
  • Consult with professor
    If a grade was lower than expected or the exam was more difficult, discuss areas of improvement with instructors.

Smart Study Apps for Online College Students

Fortunately, online students don't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to organizing notes, creating to-do lists, or studying thanks to these helpful apps.


Allows students to access millions of existing study sets or create their own practice quizzes.
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Price: Free


Helps students keep all of their documents, notes, presentations, and images in one place.
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Price: Basic version is free


An innovative app that helps online students create mind maps of their thoughts and ideas. Great for structuring an essay or notes.
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Price: Basic version is free; pro version is $9.99


Allows students to create, save, share, and print flashcards and take practice quizzes on relevant subject matter.
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Price: Basic version is free; pro version is $10/month


Helps students learn vocabulary words in more than 18 different languages via audio and text quizzes, flash cards, and spaced repetition.
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Price: Free


This digital student planner helps online learners track deadlines for papers and exams.
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Price: Basic version is free; pro version is $4.99/year

Other Resources to Sharpen Your Study and Test-Taking Skills

  • Exam Coach
    Students experiencing test anxiety may benefit from the expert skills of an exam coach. These professionals can help students identify what's causing them stress and work to remove those hurdles.
  • Community Resource Center
    Lots of local community centers have tutoring programs and practice exams available.
  • Local Students
    Even if you go to different schools, finding a friend who is also a student and spending time studying together can be a valuable experience.

Asking for Help: Where to Find a Tutor

Even the best students need a little support sometimes, and that's where tutors come in. These trained academic professionals help students understand and retain information that may not come naturally to them, and thankfully they can be found in myriad settings. Some of the best places to look include:

Check with your school, as many institutions (Portland Community College, for example) provide online tutors for no additional charge as part of regular tuition and fees.

For those who prefer face-to-face interaction, check with a local community center to see if tutoring services are part of their offerings.

Ask your friends if they currently use a tutor and if they're taking on additional students.

Find out if there's a local service that matches tutors and students in your city.

If a school doesn't have an e-tutor available for online students and none of the options listed above pan out, have no fear: there are thousands of qualified tutors offering services online and possibly in your area. Some of the more popular services are outlined below.

Popular Online Tutoring Services
Organization Price Local Tutoring Available?
Costs are set by individual tutors No, all tutors are virtual
$15/week for 30 minutes of tutoring; 50¢ per additional minute No, all tutors are virtual
1 hour is $45; 4 hours are $150 No, all tutors are virtual
Costs are set by individual tutors No, all tutors are virtual
$39-$49/hour depending on the plan chosen No, all tutors are virtual
1 hour/month is $39.99 per month
2 hours/month is $79.99 per month
3 hours/month is $114.99 per month
No, all tutors are virtual
Costs are set by individual tutors Yes, TutorMatch connects users to both local and virtual tutors
Tutors set their own hourly rates, ranging from $10 to $60 Yes. University Tutor has more than 107,000 tutors in nearly 8,700 cities across the world. Virtual tutoring also available.
Costs are set by individual tutors Yes, local tutoring available in 21+ cities.
Individual sessions are $49 with other pricing options available No, all tutors are virtual

* Prices accurate at time of publication. Please visit individual sites for most up-to-date pricing.

Tutoring Services for Online Student Military

Military students – especially those on active duty – face additional challenges when trying to complete their online degrees while also serving America. Many universities and tutoring services recognize their unique situations and provide additional services and resources to help them succeed.

The University of Pittsburgh is a great example of the services an online military student may expect to find at their university, including assistance with admissions counseling, course scheduling, career guidance, and personalized tutoring.

Other online tutoring services also provide specialized programs for members of the military. offers their services free to active duty members of the service and any dependents they may have.

Students should also check with the local branch of their Veterans Administration or other community organizations that may provide additional assistance in the form of technology loans, career counseling, or one-to-one tutoring sessions.

Learning Styles: Why They Matter and How to Find Yours

Learning styles play a significant role in understanding how different students consume and retain information. While one may be a solitary visual learner, another may learn best when surrounded by others who rely on logic. Students who know their learning styles are able to maximize their time and ultimately understand coursework in more meaningful ways. The seven primary types of learners are:

Visual learners retain information best when it is presented as pictures, images, or explained in terms of spatial awareness. Things like use of color, thoughtful layouts, and well-chosen font stick in their memories.

Tips for Success

  • Organize notes via color coordination.
  • Use mind maps.
  • Incorporate pictures and images in review sessions

Solitary learners are typically motivated and directed students who work best with then are alone and can study materials without the interruption of others. They need to be alone with their thoughts to do their best work.

Tips for Success

  • Make sure you are personally interested in your work.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Create goals and objectives.

Social learners are interpersonal students who learn and retain information best when studying in groups or with other classmates. They need to be able to talk through ideas and theories in order to understand them.

Tips for Success

  • Set up virtual study sessions with classmates.
  • Talk through class concepts as much as possible.
  • Learn how to use deductive reasoning to your advantage.

Logical learners rely heavily on using logic and reason to work through questions or better understand concepts and greatly appreciate existing systems of understanding. Logical learners are not at their best when called upon to use intuition or instinct.

Tips for Success

  • Don't overanalyze.
  • Look for systems or patterns within class materials to better understand them.
  • Use an online if concepts are still unclear.

Physical learners approach the world and their studies from a kinesthetic mindset and make excellent students when they are able to use their hands, bodies, and well-developed senses of touch to understand how something works.

Tips for Success

  • Pay attention to sensations and how they affect you.
  • Use physical objects, such as a stress ball, when studying.
  • Think about a concept as a physical object if you struggle to understand it.

Verbal learners rely on words, both spoken and written, to make sense of new materials or experiences. They are very linguistically focused and can often understand difficult concepts more quickly than others when explained clearly and precisely through words alone.

Tips for Success

  • Read difficult materials aloud.
  • Discuss concepts or theories with classmates.
  • Keep notes while reading or outlining a paper.

Aural learners pick up information best when it is conveyed in an auditory, musical, or rhythmic way. These types of learners may prefer listening to an audio book rather than reading it themselves, or recording class lectures to listen to at a later time.

Tips for Success

  • Ask professors if you can record lectures given online.
  • Find an app that reads books aloud.
  • Read assignments out loud.

How to Identify Your Learning Style

After reviewing the seven different styles of learning identified above, online students may have an idea of how they learn best but want confirmation. The quizzes below help students identify how to maximize their learning potential.

Index of Learning Styles is a 44-question quiz created by North Carolina State University.

Multiple Intelligences Self-Assessment is provided by Edutopia and helps students identify their learning style via 24 questions.

The VARK Questionnaire is comprised of 16 questions and categorizes learners into visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic.

Strategies for Conquering Student Stress

In a 2008 study, 80 percent of surveyed college students said they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress. Stress, while not an issue that requires immediate condition, can fester and impede a student's ability to live their best lives. Kick stress to the curb with these relief techniques.

10 College Stress Busters
Step 1
Take frequent breaks
Even if you have a mountain of schoolwork, step away from the computer at least once every two hours and take a short walk, make a phone call, or enjoy a small snack.
Step 2
Make realistic plans
Rather than staying up all night responding to discussions, create a plan of what you can realistically do while still retaining information and don't sacrifice sleep.
Step 3
Turn off technology
At the end of the day, put away computers and cell phones and take time to relax by stretching or reading a book.
Step 4
If you feel your stress levels rising, take three deep breaths with your eyes closed and refocus on what you need to accomplish.
Step 5
Break up tasks
Rather than thinking about every single thing you need to do, break down tasks into 15 or 30-minute segments and focus on accomplishing individual, smaller goals.
Step 6
In addition to short walks, try to spend at least an hour or two per week engaging in some type of physical activity to release endorphins.
Step 7
Taking 10 minutes at the start or end of each day to refocus your brain and find calmness can drastically help reduce anxiety surrounding assignments and exams.
Step 8
Focus on the positives
It may seem like you have way too much to do sometimes, but don't focus on that. Instead think about all the good things an education brings.
Step 9
See friends
We know that laughter is the best medicine for many ailments, so make sure you're not without social breaks.
Step 10
Control your time
If you feel there isn't enough structure provided by online learning, create your own version of class times and study sessions to feel more organized.

Decompress With These Relaxation/Meditation Apps

Need some help relaxing or practicing meditation? These handy apps put students on the path to mindfulness.


Allows users to personalize sounds and the length of each session to fit their schedules. It also includes a program to help with lack of sleep.
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Price: Free


Provides guided meditation sessions to help with mindfulness, stress, relaxation, and sleep.
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Price: Free with additional add-ons for purchase

Stop Breathe & Think

Offers both short and longer sessions focused on mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and body scanning.
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Price: Free with additional add-ons for purchase

Smiling Mind

Helps individuals focus on happiness and kindness in an effort to improve mental health. It has programs for kids, teens, and adults.
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Price: Free

Take a Break!

Assists busy people – such as online college students – disconnect from work and relieve stress.
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Price: Free


These 10-minute meditation sessions help online students get into the habit of mindfulness.
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Price: Free with additional add-ons for purchase
Extra Resources and Services to Reduce Student Stress

Although tips and apps can be helpful in alleviating the stress of college and outside responsibilities, sometimes students need more substantive assistance to right the course and find peace.

College Resources
  • Counseling services
    Drexel University is just one example of a college that provides mental health and psychological services to full-time online students via telephone and on-site support.
  • Online screenings for mental health concerns
    Lots of schools, such as Minnesota State University, provide all students with self-guided online screenings to identify if they're struggling with depression, stress, anxiety, or another disorder.
  • Mental health resources
    Mi-talk is a service provided by the University of Michigan and available to all online students that includes recorded workshops, online lectures, and skill-building tools for reducing stress.
Online Resources

Managing Your Time Effectively During Online College

One of the reasons many students elect to complete their educations online is because they have personal or professional commitments that would make attending a regular class difficult. Because of this, time can either be the best or worst friend of an online student, depending on how well they are able to manage it.

10 Steps to Time Management Mastery
Step 1
Prioritize work
What's due tomorrow and what's due in a few days? Focus on the tasks directly in front of you rather than worrying over future due dates.
Step 2
Track progress
Create a list of things to accomplish for your online class and then reward yourself by checking each one off the list as it's finished.
Step 3
Stay organized
Productivity is often influenced by surroundings, so keeping a tidy desk or workspace can help your mind focus on schoolwork rather than clutter.
Step 4
Learn how to say “no.”
Be it a classmate asking for help crafting a discussion response or a coworker looking for coverage, learn how to prioritize your responsibilities.
Step 5
Let others help you
We all know the group project member who wants to do it all, but sometimes that just isn't feasible. Don't be afraid to let your virtual classmates help shoulder responsibility.
Step 6
Remember the bigger picture
While you don't want to spend too much time thinking about every single assignment that's due by the end of the semester, keeping a calendar with impending deadlines helps you avoid a crisis situation of finding out a paper is due in the morning.
Step 7
Bring your schoolwork wherever you go
One of the joys of online learning is that you can do it anywhere you have a computer and an internet connection. Bring your laptop along with you each day and fit in small bits of work when you can.
Step 8
Identify Your Productivity Peak
Are you a morning person? Do you tend to do your best work after dinner? Identify when you're most productive and try to write a few discussion responses or study for an exam during that time.
Step 9
A full night's rest helps clear the mind and provides students with the focus they need to accomplish tasks efficiently.
Step 10
After using a few different techniques for a while, evaluate them and see if you feel more productive or perhaps need a different tactic.
Best Time Management Apps for Online Students

Students looking for a web or mobile apps to maximize their productivity and keep them accountable to deadlines may find one of these handy services does the trick.

Time Camp

This app helps online students understand how they're really spending their time in an attempt to be more efficient.
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Price: Free

Rescue Time

Rescue Time is meant to help online students find a balance between work, school, and life commitments.
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Price: Basic version is free; premium version is $6.75/month

Focus Booster

Designed specifically for students, this app helps them accomplish tasks while also building in time for breaks.
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Price: Starter is free, Individual is $3/month

Remember the Milk

Helps busy students remember all they need to do in their day.
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Price: Free with add-ons available for purchase


Allows users to access, transfer, and share files on any computer or mobile device so students can work from wherever they are.
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Price: Basic version is free


Toggl helps students keep track of how much time they're spending on projects and assignments so they can better plan for future schoolwork.
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Price: Basic version is free

Staying Social as an Online Student

Because online students spend hours sitting at their computers, developing meaningful connections with their classmates is vital, but it can also be daunting. Use these tips to find innovative ways of participating in college life.

Benefits of Being Social

Study or review sessions

Online students may not be able to meet in the student center together, but finding ways to get together and review class material or study for a test helps participants better understand topics and retain information.


Whether it's bonding over a difficult assignment or commiserating about a late night writing session to finish a paper, it's good for online students to know that others feel the same and share in that experience.

Enhanced interaction with professors

Online students can't just walk into their professor's office, but they can set up real-time meetings over webcam. This exercise is beneficial both for understanding material and developing a relationship with the professor that may prove useful later – like when you're applying for a job and need a recommendation.

Experience of a student organization

Lots of student clubs and groups now have online components so distance learners can take part.

Networking opportunities

Whether it's learning about a city you're considering moving to after graduation from a fellow student or being introduced to a prospective employer by a professor, there are plenty of networking opportunities for online students.
How to Break Out of Your Shell

Respond thoughtfully to discussion posts

Rather than posting generic responses, learners who are attentive to other students can often build bonds by the end of the semester.

Provide a biography of yourself

It's so easy to just think of classmates as nameless, faceless people behind a computer, but taking time to share yourself with others and asking them to do the same can quickly break down barriers and open the door to a more in-depth connection.

Suggest a Google Hangout

Google Hangout is a free, web-based video conferencing program where multiple people can chat face-to-face. It's a great resource for assignments and getting to know classmates better.

Work in coffee shops

Online learners looking for interactions away from their computer may consider working at a coffee shop frequented by students.

Get an internship

Aside from work experience and being able to add a line to a resume, internships are a great way to potentially meet other students and build contacts within a chosen field.

Online College Clubs

As more students elect to complete their degrees online, more colleges and student groups are finding ways to include them in extracurricular activities. Students should check with both their school and national organizations to find out what's available to them.

  • Alpha Phi Omega
    This organization is active at 375 colleges and comprises more than 400,000 members looking to build skills in leadership, friendship, and service.
  • Alumni Associations
    Every college has an active alumni association, providing a great way to stay in touch with classmates and meet other graduates.
  • American Chemical Society
    Students can check to see if their college has a chapter. If not, start one!
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
    In addition to all the personalized elements of a school group, the national arm of the ASCE also hosts numerous conferences and competitions.
  • Association for Computing Machinery
    ACM is a national group that encourages students to create their own chapters.
  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars
    This merit-based group welcomes any students – online or campus-based – who maintain academic excellence.
  • National Communication Association
    Whether participating in a group already formed or starting your own, NCA is a great choice for online students.
  • International Justice Mission
    This group encourages both online and campus-based students to join the fight against slavery throughout the world.
  • National Student Nurses' Association
    This group is active on many college campuses and also encourages online student participation.
  • Student Veterans of America
    This group has a national presence as well as local chapters throughout the country.
The 10 Golden Rules of Proper Netiquette

When communicating online with classmates and professors, it's imperative to act appropriately. Make sure you're on top of your netiquette game by following these guidelines.

Step 1
Respect your professor
In every email or discussion, treat your professor with the same amount of respect as you would if face-to-face. This includes using the correct title.
Step 2
Do your research
Before asking a professor or classmate the answer to an unknown question, students need to make sure they've sufficiently exhausted their resources before adding work for someone else.
Step 3
Use proper grammar
Even when responding to a message board thread, remember that this is college-level communication. Students should avoid slang, misspellings, or overly informal language.
Step 4
Be aware of tone
Sarcasm is very hard to translate across a screen, particularly to people who haven't met you before and don't know your sense of humor. Be mindful of your tone when sending messages to others.
Step 5
Like sarcasm, the use of all capital letters is difficult to translate across a computer screen and could come across as yelling.
Step 6
Don't share personal information
This rule applies to personal information about yourself or anything a fellow student has confided.
Step 7
Avoid sending too many mass emails
Group emails can be effective for sharing relevant information with people who actually need it, but ask yourself if every person on the email list will benefit from the information before sending it.
Step 8
Always explain yourself
One of the difficulties of online learning can be making sure people understand what you're trying to convey and that it is in the correct tone. Be mindful of the words you use and consider having a friend or family member read the text before submitting.
Step 9
Be respectful
One of the main purposes of college is to help students expand their worldviews and encounter opinions they may not have considered. Whether or not a student agrees with a peer's viewpoint, it's important to be respectful and attempt to have a mutually beneficial dialogue.
Step 10
Pay attention to existing comments
If responding to a thread discussion, students should review all existing comments so they don't dredge up a topic that's already been covered extensively.

Terminology Cheatsheet for Online College

Online learning has a lot of specific terminology that comes with it, and new online students may not be familiar with some of the common words during their first semester.

  • Asynchronous
    Asynchronous classes allow students to complete work whenever it best suits them rather than logging in at specified times.
  • Blended/Hybrid Learning
    Refers to classes or degrees that incorporate campus-based learning alongside online classes.
  • Cohort
    A group of students that start a program at the same time and follow the same sequence of classes together.
  • Course Management System
    Also known as a CMS, this refers to the learning platform used to manage online learning, such as BlackBoard or Moodle.
  • Discussion Boards
    Much like a message board or forum, discussion boards are used to facilitate the types of conversations about course materials that typically take place in a classroom.
  • MOOCs
    Massive Open Online Courses are online courses, often filled with hundreds or even thousands of students, that are focused on academic topics but usually don't count toward college credit.
  • Proctored Exam
    When online students need to take a supervised exam, online schools work with them to find a local proctor to ensure academic integrity is maintained.
  • Synchronous
    The opposite of asynchronous, synchronous classes require students to log-in at specific times.
  • Virtual Library
    Virtual libraries provide online students with access to databases, e-books, research materials, and other digital publications.
Insider Insight: Online Learning Advice from a Teacher and Student
Personal experience matters – so we spoke to a teacher and former student to get an inside look at the digital classroom and seek their advice on what it takes to excel as an online college learner.

What are the most common misconceptions new online students have about this style of learning?

The most common misconception is that you can learn online while doing something else at the same time. With online learning, as well as with onsite learning, you must be present and attentive in order to learn. The problem with online learning is that students are tempted to multitask and therefore don't pay full attention to the course. Although this can also happen with onsite courses, professors are able to better command attention in person than online and we are better able to notice and correct inattention.
Dr. Luz Claudio (The Teacher's View)

The biggest misconception about an online degree is that it's easier to complete than a traditional degree program. An online program covers the same material as the traditional classes, but is implemented differently. Students in an online degree program are held to the same academic standards as students in traditional programs.
Robin Strempek (The Student's View)

What are the qualities or characteristics a student needs to adapt/develop to be successful in online learning?

A student has to have a strong motivation and need to learn the material being taught. Having a strong “why” will keep students engaged in the course over time. Also, it is very important for students to have very clear learning objectives when they join an online course. Try to have a clear purpose for being in the course. Ask yourself what is it that you want to learn.
Dr. Luz Claudio (The Teacher's View)

To be a successful online student, you have to be a self-starter, motivated, and well organized. Online courses require a great level of discipline to read/watch weekly course material, complete assignments, and finish coursework on time. Students that are engaged and know how to motivate themselves do well with online courses.
Robin Strempek (The Student's View)

How can professors better assist online students who are struggling?

Professors need to understand that they may not always have students' attention. Students may be engaging in the course during all kinds of situations, such as while taking care of children, commuting or during work lunch breaks. For these reasons, the online course must be available on multiple platforms, including mobile. The presentations must be very clear with strong visuals that can be reviewed on their own. It is also important to have a strong syllabus and lesson plan that can guide students through the course. Finally, decide what exactly do you want students to be able to do or to learn after they have completed the course. Accept that they will not learn all the content that you have provided, so decide what are the key competencies that you want them to learn and focus on those repeatedly throughout the course.
Dr. Luz Claudio (The Teacher's View)

Professors that are engaging with the online students are better at assisting online students who are struggling. In an online course, it's easy for professors to stay distant from students. This shouldn't stop a professor from being an influential part of class discussion and student learning.
Robin Strempek (The Student's View)

How can online students who are also juggling personal/professional responsibilities carve out the time they need to be successful?

My number one piece of practical advice is that students should NOT engage in their online course at the same desk where they usually work. If they have a home office, sit at the kitchen table instead.  If home is too noisy, try downloading the lessons to your phone and viewing them during your train commute. Logging in to the course at the same place where you usually work can be too distracting and not conducive to learning. Also, consider breaking-up the time in order to get through the material. 
Dr. Luz Claudio (The Teacher's View)

It can be a challenge to carve out time to be a successful online student when you have a full-time career and personal responsibilities. The best way to combat this is to dedicate time to your online degree. Schedule time in your day to complete your coursework. During that scheduled time, you should be in a dedicated space that allows you to concentrate fully on your coursework. A huge benefit to online degree programs is the time saved by not driving to and from a traditional class and being able to manage time to meet your needs.
Robin Strempek (The Student's View)

If you could provide one piece of advice to prospective or current online students, what would it be?

Be active in the student community. I cannot emphasize this enough! Students can learn as much, and sometimes more, from their peers as from their professors. Engage in student discussions and forums instead of expecting the professor to answer all of your questions.
Dr. Luz Claudio (The Teacher's View)

Stay well organized! Being organized starts with understanding the professor's expectations and the course requirements. From there, students should make an action plan that moves them toward completing all expectations and requirements of the online course.
Robin Strempek (The Student's View)

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