How to be a Successful Online Student

An online course is much like a traditional, face-to-face course in that it follows a schedule and syllabus and that assignments and quizzes are expected, usually due by certain dates. Students are responsible for reading the textbooks and handouts and completing all class learning activities on their own, but the big difference in an online course is that students can do the work any time of day and, typically, any day of the week.

Instead of attending lectures, online students access course content (PowerPoint presentations, video demonstrations, assignments, papers, other web sites, etc.) via the internet. The instructor can usually be reached by phone, e-mail, and/or instant messaging.

Learning online can require some new strategies. Generally, you should:


Familiarize yourself with Moodle.

Learn what modules and links you have access to and how can you use them to get to where you want to go. Find the course syllabus, schedule, calendar, requirements, methods of communication, where you go for help, etc.


Take full advantage of online conferencing.

Whatever you can do to avoid feeling isolated is extremely important, and participating in online conferences will give you access to other students who are taking the same course as you at the same time. 



Whether you are working alone, or in a group, contribute your ideas, perspective and comments on the subject you are studying, and read about those of your classmates. Your instructor is not the only source of information in your course. You can gain great insight from your peers and they can learn from you as well. 


Take the program and yourself seriously.

Elicit the support of your colleagues, family and friends before you start out on your online adventure. This built-in support system will help you tremendously since there will be times when you will have to sit at your computer for hours at a stretch in the evenings and on weekends. When most people are through with work and want to relax is most likely when you will be bearing down on your course work. It helps to surround yourself with people who understand and respect what you are trying to do. 


Make sure you have a private space where you can study. 

This will help lend importance to what you are doing as well. Your own space where you can shut the door, leave papers everywhere, and work in peace is necessary. If you try to share study space with the dining room or bedroom, food or sleep will take priority over studying. 


Become a true advocate of distance learning. 

Discuss the merits of the process with whoever will listen. In order to be successful in this new educational environment, you must truly believe in its potential to provide quality education which is equal to, if not better than the traditional face-to-face environment. In discussing the value of online learning, you will reinforce it s merits for yourself. 


Log on to your course every single day or a minimum of 5-6 days a week.

Once you get into the online conferencing system, you will be eager to see who has commented on your postings and read the feedback of your instructor and peers. You will also be curious to see who has posted something new that you can comment on. If you let too many days go by without logging on to your course discussion group, you will get behind and find it very difficult to catch up. You are expected to give to and take at least as much from an online class as you would from a traditional face-to-face class. 


Take advantage of your anonymity.

One of the biggest advantages of the online format is that you can pursue your studies without the judgments typical in a traditional classroom. Unless you are using video conferencing, no one can see you there are no stereotypes, and you don t have to be affected by raised eyebrows, rolled eyeballs, other students stealing your thunder, or people making other non verbal reactions to your contributions. You don t have to feel intimidated or upstaged by students who can speak faster than you because you can take all of the time you need to think your ideas through and compose a response before posting your comments to your class. 


Be polite and respectful.

Just because you are anonymous, doesn’t mean you should let yourself go. Remember, you are dealing with real people on the other end of your modem. Being polite and respectful is not only common sense, it is absolutely obligatory for a productive and supportive online environment. In a positive online environment, you will feel valued by your instructor, valued by your classmates and your own work will have greater value as well. 


Speak up if you are having problems.

Your instructor will advise you regarding your avenues for help but, generally, you have a number of options. First, look around the program to try and find the answers to your questions (Moodle has online help). When you enrolled in an online course you indicated your understanding that you could work in a self-directed environment. You can also post or send questions to your classmates. If you have a question it s not unlikely that someone else has already had that same question. One of the strengths of an online class is that it can promote working cooperatively. If another student is able to help you, he/she probably will, and if you are able to explain something to your classmates in need, you will not only help them out, you will reinforce your own knowledge about the subject. Finally, you may contact your instructor with any unanswered questions. Remember that your instructor cannot see you so you must be absolutely explicit with your comments and requests.


Apply what you learn.

Apply everything you learn as you learn it and you will remember it more readily. If it is possible, take the things you learn in your online course today and use them in your workplace tomorrow. Also, try to make connections between what you are learning and what you do or will do in your job. Contributing advice or ideas about the real-world as it applies to the subject matter you are studying helps you to internalize what you are learning, and gives valuable insight to your classmates who will benefit from your experience.