How to Succeed as an Online Learner

Nine tips to keep you on track

Online learning, as with any academic endeavor, does require significant effort and a commitment to keeping up with the assignments and engaging with the course material. Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of your online education:

  1. Schedule: Consider your schedule and other commitments. Think about your top priorities at work and at home, and what you may be able to shift to create time for readings and assignments.
    Knowing all of your commitments in advance will help you to allocate time to schoolwork and maintain balance. Use phone apps with reminders at 1-week, 3-day and 1-day intervals to remind yourself of homework assignments. Google offers a great calendar you can sync with your phone’s calendar.
  2. Don’t fall behind! Stay on top of the syllabus and required coursework. Utilize time and resource management tips from the experts. Here are two great articles: 
    How to Improve Your Time Management Skills (7 Easy Ways)
    10 Common Time Management Mistakes

  3. Technology: You’ll be spending a lot of time online; make sure you have the right tools to make it happen. A strong internet connection that can support videos and online meetings. Access to a computer with a webcam/microphone to connect with your instructors and fellow students.
  4. Be an active participant. Visit the course homepage regularly to check for updates, download materials and participate in online discussions.
    Many of your assignments will require posting comments on the message board or responding to posts from instructors or students. This allows you to have in-depth interaction with your classmates and engage in interesting discussions on what you are learning.
    Confused? Ask questions and be specific. Describe your confusion or problem in detail; chances are others in the class are wondering about the same thing.

  5. Connect with your classmates. Online courses mean the student body is not restricted to one geographical area. Take advantage of this diversity—reach out to your fellow students and learn about their work, career paths, and the different types of jobs and opportunities available.
    Connect with classmates on LinkedIn to broaden your professional network. Leverage these relationships for future jobs or collaborations.
    Your classmates are also a great sounding board for new ideas, and can provide valuable advice and mentorship. Utilize your new community and reach out.

  6. But disconnect from distractions! Readings and assignments require a lot of focus and concentration so set yourself up to do your best work.
    Turn off your phone and log off of social media. If you feel the urge, take a break. Just be sure to remember your goals and limit your time.

  7. Find a productive study space. Whether it is a university library, coffee shop or just your kitchen table, find out where you work and focus best.
  8. Take time for yourself. When you’re in a gym class, the instructor often reminds you to breathe. You’re so focused on what you’re doing—and possibly the pain!—that you can forget something as basic as breathing.
    The same concept applies to your education: Don’t forget to breathe, and to pace yourself. Make sure you take regular breaks and get some “me” time to unwind: go for a walk, watch your favorite TV show, spend time with friends and family, etc.

  9. Remember what you’re doing this for. You’re going to have those days where it feels overwhelming, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. When you’ve completed the course, you’ll have a greater depth of knowledge, access to a global network of professionals in your field, and the knowledge and skills crucial to a successful future.