Six ways to become a successful online learner

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Whether you’re new to online learning or you’ve been doing it for years, these tried-and-true tips can help you make the most out of your semester.

  1. Set goals for yourself
    • Do this at the start of the term and actively check in with yourself throughout the semester to make sure you’re working to accomplish those goals. 
    • Write down what you want to get out of the class and how you can achieve that.
    • Ask peers to help keep you accountable in your course and goal progress.
  2. Stay optimistic
    • Online classes are flexible and let you learn at your own pace, but there will be deadlines to follow.
  3. Be patient with yourself
    • This is the most important part of online classes. There will be a learning curve not only for students but also instructors. Be patient.
    • Things will get better as the semester goes on, and it’s important to communicate with your instructor about issues your having. We’re all in this together and learning technology at different paces.

Optimize your workspace

  1. Minimize distractions
    • While doing homework, studying, etc.:
      • Stay off social media, Netflix and YouTube.
      • Set aside your phone.
      • Close the door of the room where you’re working.
      • Alert family members, roommates, etc. that you are working on your coursework.
      • Remove pets from your room.
  2. Create a designated space for you to complete all your school work
    • Keep your workspace organized, clean and free of distractions.
  3. Don’t work from your bed or couch 
    • These are places that we normally associate with relaxation. This will make it harder to focus on your work. 
    • As appealing as it may sound at first to work in your pajamas, you may not want to mix your chill zone with your work zone. A few weeks into the semester, they may start to blend together, causing you to take your work less seriously and to have trouble unwinding at the end of the day.

Create a master schedule and stick to it

  1. Create a schedule for yourself
    • Include time for completing your coursework, studying, self-care, eating, sleeping, and extra-curriculars.
  2. Before classes start, browse through all of your syllabi and add the due dates for every assignment, exam, and project to your planner, Google calendar, etc.
    • If using an electronic planner (Google Calendar, etc.), schedule reminders so you never forget an assignment!
  3. Check back and make adjustments to your calendar throughout the semester.

Take your courses seriously

  1. Online courses are just as rigorous as in-person courses
    • Online classes, as opposed to in-person classes, are often less time-sensitive and therefore give the illusion of being less demanding.
    • If you don’t take your courses seriously, it could result in a grade that you may not be so proud of at the end of the semester.
  2. Maintain the self-discipline to complete all of your readings, assignments, and assessments.
  3. Take discussion boards seriously — and have fun with them!
    • Treat that discussion board as a conversation, not a check-off on your to-do list.
  4. Be the person who brings intensity, thought, and engagement to your online class discussion boards.
  5. Students who are engaged tend to do a lot better in online courses. So, continue to post comments and questions to peers and to the instructor.

Don’t procrastinate

  1. Make a plan on when, where and how to study.
  2. Plan to turn in assignments/projects as early as you can, especially if you have to participate in forums.
  3. Complete discussion boards EARLY. Everyone in the class is waiting on each other to make a post they can respond to, so be sure to do this well before the due date. Your classmates will thank you for it.
  4. You never know when an emergency will pop up. You don’t want to miss the due date because of a last-minute emergency. It’s better not to wait until the last minute to avoid possible late penalties if your wifi suddenly goes out or you forget to bring your laptop somewhere.
  5. Remember: if you have the time to do it now, do it now!
    • Putting off assignments doesn’t account for surprise events that could prevent you from turning in your work on time.

Other tips and tricks

  1. Don’t miss lectures.
    • If the class is asynchronous (no meeting times), then make sure to have a set schedule for watching the lectures, or else you might never watch them.
    • If the class is synchronous (with meeting times), pay attention and take notes — just like you would for an in-person class. It’s tempting to do chores or other things on your to-do list while your professor is lecturing, but you will thank yourself later for actually listening.
  2. Develop a relationship with your professor.
    • Make Zoom/Google Hangout/phone appointments to meet with your professor to discuss any questions you may have.
      • Email can be another great option.
    • Remember, your professor is there to help you! However, make sure to give your professors adequate time to answer your questions and provide feedback.
  3. Take breaks
    • If you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, take a break. Consider going outside or simply taking a walk around your dorm, house, or apartment. Stretch. Grab a snack. Scroll through social media. Watch an episode of your favorite show.  Do whatever will take your mind off of your classes for a few minutes.

Adapted from:
How to ace your online courses amid coronavirus
Online classes 101
How to master online courses in college

Need more help?

Connect with Nicole Balazs, UAF eCampus Enrollment Counselor at


  • UAF eCampus Staff

    eCampus is a tight-knit group of people who are educators, readers, artists, gamers, bakers, writers, knitters, builders, adventurers, runners...we're adding to this list every day! There's usually laughter in our department meetings, and our potlucks are pretty epic.

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