Strategies for Success


If you are a new online student, you may be wondering what you can do to succeed in this new learning environment. As an online student, you will be required to learn in new ways, such as through interacting with other students. You will need to express yourself effectively within written assignments and discussion posts. You must be able to manage your time and motivate yourself independently. Many of these tips and strategies can help set you up for a successful online educational experience.

Here are some general tips and reminders that will help you to be successful in an online degree program.

1. Understand your degree program and utilize support resources

  • Be familiar with your degree program path and requirements
  • Communicate regularly with your advisor and other important contacts
  • Give yourself some time to adjust to a new way of learning
  • Alert your advisor to any issues you have in completing your degree program
  • Contact your instructor via email or phone when you run into questions or issues that you cannot solve yourself
  • If your class requires a proctor for your exams, plan ahead and make sure your proctor meets your instructor's requirements.

2. Become a self-directed learner

  • Expect to spend at least 9-12 hours (or 3-4 hours per credit) a week per course on completing assignments, working within the course and studying
  • Find a quiet, well-lit area with a strong wifi or wired internet connection for studying and completing assignments
  • Since self-study is a large part of online learning, be sure to read carefully to ensure reading comprehension
  • Be an active learner
  • Reflect on what you have learned while noting key takeaways for use in future modules, courses and learning
  • Know and follow the College’s Academic Integrity Policy

Online students have the ability to take their classes at anytime, from anywhere with an internet connection. With this flexibility, comes the possibility for procrastinating. Online students do not receive any face-to-face reminders of due dates, deadlines, and test schedules. With that in mind, online students must exercise discipline, commitment and organization skills.


Some believe that the flexibility and self-paced nature inherent in online education relays an easier course experience, however online courses are often more difficult than traditional courses. This is due to the additional work of self-management and organization that is required of online students who want to stay on top of their workload.

Use these tips to succeed in your class.

1. Form a plan

  • Use a calendar to plan time to work on assignments and studying
  • Block off specific times during your day or week to dedicate to work for your online class
  • Create structure for yourself be becoming and staying organized and well planned

2. Establish a routine

  • Determine the best times of day or week to focus on your work
  • Disciplined work habits are the key to success. If you fall behind, contact your instructor ASAP for help getting back on track

3. Make good use of downtime to stay on top of assignments.

  • Don’t wait for feedback and/or grades for previous modules or assignments before starting the next module or assignment
  • Use free time to get ahead on readings
  • Consider using mobile devices to check in and stay current with module discussions, forums, and announcements when you have free moments

"Netiquette" refers to the rules of etiquette for communicating on the internet. This includes being kind, courteous, and respectful in all forms of online communication such as email, discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and Zoom.

In addition, many online classes are asynchronous, allowing each student to log in and access course materials and assignments at the most convenient times for their schedule. This means that instructors will also be interacting in the course and answering questions on their own schedule. Be aware that interactions with online instructors are not immediate, but are most instructors are prompt with their responses and grading. Your instructor will inform you of when to expect a response to your emails.

1. Netiquette

  • Focus your communications on improving and sharing knowledge.
  • Be kind and forgiving of other people.
  • Be cognizant other people's time, effort, and bandwidth
  • Respect people's privacy (and your own!)
  • Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you and if you're upset, take a breath and revisit the issue at a later time

2. Communication tips

  • Be sure to check your email regularly to receive important course announcements and institutional information
  • Choose your words carefully, as your tone in an online environment may appear differently than you intend
  • Avoid using all capital letters as this is often seen as yelling
  • Spell check and proofread assignments, messages, or discussion posts before submitting them to avoid mistakes that could cause confusion
  • Make sure you communicate your ideas and knowledge clearly in your written assignments and discussion posts
  • Seek help from the Writing Center if needed

3. Response times

  • Don’t expect your instructor or other personnel to respond immediately
  • Instructors generally respond to student concerns within a few days

Being prepared with the necessary equipment, skills, and planning will be crucial for your transition to working in a digital environment.

1. Requirements

  • Make sure to have wireless internet access to view the course and submit assignments
  • Plan to have wired internet access for interacting during synchronous sessions
  • Bring your power cord with you when you need to work on the course away from home

2. Document management

  • Save documents early and often to prevent losing your work
  • Create assignments in Microsoft Word or a similar tool so they can be saved and archived for later use
  • Copy and paste discussion posts from your saved Microsoft Word documents into the Canvas text box and check the formatting before submitting them

3. Plan for technology snags

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to complete and submit assignments
  • Reach out to the College’s IT department to get help when you encounter technical issues