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Online Success Strategies

Online courses can be a great way to get the education that you need in a format that is convenient to busy lifestyles. However, an online class is neither easier nor less work than an on-campus class! Online students who wish to be successful must be aware of some fundamental truths and some pervasive myths about taking online courses.

Traits of Successful Online Students

Students who are highly successful online share a set of common traits that allow them to navigate the online environment.

These traits include:

A high level of individual motivation and self-discipline:  When you take a course online, you don’t have the additional weight of an instructor you see every week pushing you to get your work done, nor do you have the immediate feedback of your classmates to talk to after class. An online student must be ready to ask their own questions instead of waiting for their classmates to ask, and must be ready to reach out to the instructor and other students in the class when help is required.

Time management skills and organization:  You must plan your time carefully when taking an online course. There is no scheduled class meeting time or instructor intervention, so you must be responsible for knowing and meeting all deadlines. If you have difficulty keeping up with homework and assignments in an on-campus class, than online classes may be even more difficult!

Excellent reading comprehension and writing skills:  In an online course, everything you do is written, from interacting with your classmates, to submitting assignments and contacting your instructor. If you have difficulty with reading and writing skills, it may have an adverse effect on your success in an online class.

Technical ability:  An online student must be comfortable with technology. If you have difficulty installing programs or get frustrated with common technology problems, you may want to rethink your choice of an online course. You may be required to upgrade your web browser to use Blackboard effectively. Your instructor may require you to install specific programs for their course. The internet may be down when you want to work on your assignments. If these types of problems give you the heebie-jeebies, you may wish to take your course on-campus instead.

Online Course Myths

Online courses are a godsend to people with hectic lifestyles, family obligations, or inflexible work schedules. Online courses were first developed to help people like this get the education they both need and deserve. As you go through this guide, think about why you decided to take this course online.

Online courses are easier:  This is not true! Online courses are just as difficult as on-campus courses, and may even be more difficult due to the format of the class.

I can do course work at my own pace: Most online courses follow the school calendar and have strict deadlines for submission of class work. Online courses are rarely self-paced.

I need this course to fulfill my program requirements and I can’t fit it in on-campus:  Taking “the last course I need” in an online format, especially if this is your first time taking online courses, may be setting yourself up for disaster. Many students have been successful in this situation, but you must keep the traits and skills needed for success in mind and be ready to push yourself if needed!

I don’t feel like coming to campus this semester: This reason is rarely a good reason to take online courses. Taking a full load online will usually mean more work, and possibly much more, than a full load on-campus. Think carefully!

Tips for Online Success

These are some simple tips and strategies that will help you keep it together and be successful.

Don’t Procrastinate:  Check the objectives for each module and each assignment at the beginning of each week and plan your attack! Don’t leave your work until the last minute. Unexpected technical issues may pop up! Don’t get caught short if you need help, because technical assistance and your instructor are rarely available at 11:59 pm.

Participate:  Your interaction with your classmates in an online course comes from the discussions and assignments you work on together. Don’t wait to post your thoughts. Post early and often, and make sure to read the directions for each discussion. Ask questions and interact – who knows, you may learn something!

Pace Yourself: Plan out your due dates. Use a calendar. Don’t try to cram all of your work into one session a week. If you pretend your online class meets at specific times three times a week, just like an on-campus class, and you sign in and work during those times, you will be much more successful and less stressed.

Talk to Your Instructor:  If you are having a problem, need an extension, or just have a question, make sure you contact your instructor sooner rather than later. The quicker you discuss a problem with them, the quicker it can be resolved.

Tips from the SLN HelpDesk

  • Always type your work off-line first, then copy the text or use the online assignment area. If you type directly into the message box and something happens with your internet connection or computer, your work may be lost. Imagine if you worked hard on an exam, only to receive an error when you click Submit. Your work would then be completely lost and you would have to start again from the beginning. If you type your work off-line in a word processor, you would still have a copy of your answers.
  • When you take a test, if you have the option to save your work periodically, we strongly recommend you do so. If you have the same page open for a long period of time you may lose your session. You may want to print a copy of your exam before you click Submit.
  • Many instructors use timers on their exams. It is important you remember that as soon as you open the test the timer will immediately begin counting down. Even if you log off or shut down the computer, the timer still counts down. As soon as you begin the test be prepared to complete it in one session.
  • Do not open your class in multiple windows or tabs.  This can cause you to lose your login session and cause your work to be lost.
  • The HelpDesk recommends clearing the cache and cookies in your web browser at least once per week.  Directions can be found in our online Knowledge Base.
  • Always make sure to use the Log Out link in the top right corner when you are finished working, DO NOT click the X on your browser to close the program.


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