Succeeding In Your Online Class
Online classes require organization and self-motivation. Here are some pointers to stay on top of your schedule and get the most out of your online experience. We've also developed a UMass Amherst Student Orientation and Resource Area to assist you in getting ready for your online learning experience.
- Familiarize yourself with the course layout. Explore all of the sections in the Course Tools (Assignments, Discussion, Assessments, etc.).
- Review the Student Orientation & Resource Area if you have questions about course tools.
- Explore all materials that are available in the course.
- Carefully read the syllabus and other materials thoroughly before emailing the instructor with questions.
- Communicate with your instructor using his/her preferred method (i.e. Email, Discussion Boards, Blackboard Messages, Chat, Phone, etc.).
- Complete any “introductory” activities set out by the instructor.
- Bring an open-minded attitude to your online course. It might take some time to get used to learning online and having an open mind will support your ability to learn. 2
- Practice flexibility and patience. Students and instructors will encounter technological bumps. Your internet connection might be slow or a document might need more time to load. Practicing patience will help you to keep from clicking too many times and slowing down your task even more! 2
- Let your instructor know if you're having trouble finding course content, or following the organization of the course. This information can help your instructor adjust the course, if needed, to support your learning! 2
- Participate in discussions! The more you put into a course, the more potential there is for you to connect with your instructor and other students, and the more potential you create for learning. 2
- Establish a routine. Develop a “schedule that designates specific times to login. This allows you to participate in class and to carry out other course-related activities such as reading and doing research.” 1
- Note assignment and activity due dates.
- Spend 6–9(+/-) hours per week per class on course material and activities. Winter & Summer Sessions are intensive courses and will require additional time per week.
- Begin work on large projects as early as possible.
- Focus on completing tasks efficiently within a given time frame.
- Log in to the course every 24–48 hours to check for new course messages and any updates from your instructor.
- Scan through an entire session before beginning any work.
- Revise and focus your comments before posting to a discussion topic.
- Familiarize yourself with the library website and other resources well in advance of beginning research; understand how to navigate through these resources.
- Ask questions. Utilize your fellow students and faculty when you need clarification on a particular topic.
- Submit assignments using the method that the instructor specifies.
- Prepare yourself for assignments and quizzes as you might in face-to-face courses. Take notes, review materials and self-assess to find gaps in comprehension.
- Save your work frequently when working in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Google Docs automatically saves your work.
- Keep copies of your submitted work on your home computer as a backup.
- Familiarize yourself with the technical support resources available to you.
- Identify other computers that are available to you in case of Internet or computer problems. For example, you may have to go to a library or cafe if you lose connectivity at home.
- Online courses rely on clear, written communication.
- "Write clearly and concisely." Use full sentences and use all of your grammar and spelling resources. 2
- Express your opinions, and "maintain your personality" in your writing. 2
- Use quotes with clear, appropriate citations to avoid plagiarism.
- Save your messages, posts and drafts so that you can spell and grammar check them before posting. 2
- Reach out to fellow students to make connections and ask for assistance. Students “who incorporate a plan for regular communication with their classmates into their overall course schedule will have greater success in their online course.”1
- Actively participate in discussions or group activities.
- Establish a clearly stated plan for group projects about who will do what work and when the work will be completed.
- Develop a schedule with your group members to check-in about individual progress.
- Save any email correspondence related to group work for your records.
1 Roper, A. “How Students Develop Online Learning Skills.” EDUCAUSE quarterly 30.1 (2007): 62.
2 Blackboard, Inc. (2011). "Student Orientation for Blackboard Learn."
June 28th, 2008: TJF, KSK