Tips for Success in Online Learning

Self-Motivation

1. Establish a routine at the start of the semester and stick to it!

  • Find somewhere quiet and free from distractions to study.
  • Establish a regular study time – log onto the course frequently. Pay close attention and follow instructions given by the instructor.
  • Print a copy of the syllabus, but don’t file it away – check it early and check it often!
  • Stay on schedule/plan ahead. You can’t afford to get behind. Know the deadlines and meet them. Don’t expect the instructor to be available 24/7. Sending an 11:57 p.m. email about an exam that closes at midnight is not a successful strategy.
  • Keep an organized study file. Backup all work that you have downloaded and completed.
  • Participate in online class discussions. By doing so, you will gain a better grasp of the course material and avoid feeling isolated.
  • Look for study partners. Other students can help you study, answer your questions, and remind you of any upcoming deadlines. And sometimes, it’s nice to just chat with someone who knows exactly what you’re going through.

2. Stay motivated.

Online learning is an endurance sport. When you’re feeling burned out and tired of staring at a screen, don’t give up. Remember that everyone has good days and bad. The key to online class success: Never Give Up!

Personal Responsibility

3. Be ready to meet all program requirements.

The requirements for online are no less than that of any other quality educational program. The successful student will view online as a convenient way to receive their education – not an easier way.

4. Read all course materials and communications carefully and completely.

Reading for comprehension is critical for online learning.

5. Critical thinking is key.

Accept critical thinking and decision making as part of the learning process. The learning process requires you to make decisions based on facts as well as experience. Assimilating information and executing the right decisions requires critical thought; case analysis does this very effectively.

Communication

6. Be willing to “Speak Up” if problems arise.

If you experience difficulty on any level (either with the technology or with the course content), you must communicate this immediately. Otherwise, the instructor will never know anything is wrong and will be unable to help resolve the problem. Please don’t hesitate, if necessary, to communicate with your instructor by phone.

7. Communicate clearly through writing.

In the virtual classroom, nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that you feel comfortable in expressing yourself in writing.

8. Think through ideas before responding.

Meaningful and quality input is an essential part of the learning process. Allow for careful consideration of your responses in online class discussions. The testing and challenging of ideas is encouraged; you will not always be right, just be prepared to accept a challenge.

Study Habits

9. Be willing/able to commit 8 to 12 hours per week per course.

  • Online is not easier than the traditional educational process. In fact, many students will say it requires much more time and commitment.
  • Students enrolled in undergraduate level online courses have reported spending approximately 8 to 12 hours per week on readings and assignments for a 3-credit course. Plan to spend extra time when you have papers, projects, or exams.
  • Graduate-level courses will likely require more time per week.

Technology & Troubleshooting Strategies

10. Be sure your technology needs met.

Make sure you have reliable access to a computer and internet service.

Open access to a working computer and a reliable internet connection are essential to success in completing your online course.

Online courses at UIS require students to access our Learning Management System (Blackboard) using a desktop or laptop computer. Other devices may work well for some of your coursework; however, you should always use a desktop or laptop computer when taking a proctored exam. Smart phones, tablets, and Chromebooks are not compatible with our online proctoring service, Examity.

Computer buying recommendations are available from the UIS Information Technology Services department if you are considering purchasing a new computer.

Your Web Browser

Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers are recommended to connect to Blackboard. The Blackboard support site provides information about other compatible web browsers.

Your Internet Connection

Online courses often provide key course content through multimedia, including video and audio.

For this content to play smoothly, plan to have access to a broadband internet connection (download speeds of about 3-5 Mbps). A faster connection will improve your experience.

Proctored Exams

Some online courses require students to have proctors for exams and use our remote proctoring service. Our Proctored Exam Options page explains options that your instructor may use to proctor an exam and provides information about the Examity remote proctoring service used at UIS. If you enroll in a course that requires Examity, you may have additional equipment requirements and will need to complete some tasks before taking your exam.

11. Strategies for when Tech Problems Arise

We strive to make our student experience as seamless as possible, but we know technology doesn’t always work perfectly. Here are some strategies to try when things go wrong:

  • Contact the instructor right away. One of the most important things you can do when you have computer problems during your online courses is to contact the instructor immediately. Keeping him or her informed will improve the situation and help your grade.
  • Determine a backup plan. Figure out a backup plan – is there somewhere nearby with wi-fi or an extra computer?
  • Troubleshoot the issue. Try a few things and alternative programs on your own to see if you can get anything to work or figure out the problem.
    –>Pro tip: Use a search engine and look up the error message.
  • Contact technical support. Contact the university’s technical support, a local computer store, or a friend with technological knowledge, and explain the problem you’re having.
  • Focus on the problem. While you’re trying to work out the problem, focus solely on your computer issues. You can worry about another way to submityour assignment later.
  • Figure out how to get it fixed right away. Enlist a friend’s help or take it to a computer shop to begin getting the problem fixed as soon as possible.
  • Document your efforts to get it fixed. Keep track of everything you do to fix the problem, as proof that you can show your instructor later if necessary.
  • Go somewhere else with a working computer. Now that you’re working on getting the problem fixed, go somewhere else with a working computer and internet access.
  • Continue working on your assignment or course material. Block the computer problems out of your mind and focus on completing your work. Give your attention to your assignment.
  • Find an alternative method to submit your assignment. Consider another way to submit the assignment. Can you print it from a different computer and fax it? Can you drop it off to the instructor?

(Moss, 2010, Ten Things To Do When Having a Computer Problem While Taking Online College Courses)

UIS Tech Support Help Desk maintains expanded hours to support our online students, who don’t typically complete coursework during the standard university workday.


Components of this document have been adapted, with permission and appreciation, from a similar work from the Illinois Online Network at UIS.

This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.