Adapting to Being an Online Student

by | Mar 12, 2020
Online learning - blog (1)For students who are suddenly entering the world of online learning for the first time, here are some things you should know and advice on how to be successful.

Communicate with your instructor

Given the situation, your instructor will be communicating with you about how your course is set up and how you can connect to the course. Be sure you are clear on how and when the course will be held, what materials are needed, and how to communicate with your professor and classmates.

Know the expectations 

Your course will be either synchronous and given at a specific time, requiring you to login with the rest of your classmates. Or, it will be asynchronous, where you are provided the materials and can learn on your own time. Whichever method your course is delivered through, be sure you are clear on the expectations that have been set and hold yourself accountable for the work you need to complete. 

Your instructor will still be holding you accountable for the work you do in online discussions and collaborations, just as they would in a face-to-face class. Be sure the expectations are clear and if not, don’t hesitate to reach out to them with questions! 

Establish a functional work space

You will want to set up a dedicated learning environment to partake in your online course and study. Determine what space lends yourself to greater productivity and the least distractions. Make sure you have a high-speed internet connection available to use. If you have to go to a public space, have headphones available for listening to lectures or discussions.

"I love taking courses online and feel the class engagement is just as good as an in-person class. We connect through small groups, online forums, and if we know our classmates, through emails and texts. Additionally, I can do my class comfortably from my bed. I've taken all three of my classes online and the online platforms (Blackboard, Zoom, and Moodle) are fairly intuitive to use and there is great tech support. I recommend online classes very highly.” -Samantha Carroll

Utilize your resources

After your instructor has set the expectations for the class, be aware of the resources provided for you. Mark due dates on your calendar and bookmark websites that you’ll use frequently. Just because you won’t physically be with your professor doesn’t mean they aren’t still there to educate you. There will likely be an online discussion board for the class to ask and answer questions, but never hesitate to email your professor or instructor directly (unless you can find the answer in the syllabus!). If you need help, ask for it! 

    "The first two weeks I decided that I needed to get organized from the very beginning and not let this coursework get ahead of me since I decided to work full time and go to school. Being organized is the best suggestion that I can give to new students. Once you get the hang of it and get in a rhythm of adapting schoolwork into your daily routine, it seems like you are just rolling along. Also, do not be afraid to use resources. Asking my professor, fellow classmates and Tim questions helped me not to feel overwhelmed during times when it was likely that I would have felt that way." ---- from a Recreation, Sport and Tourism Master’s Student

Manage your time wisely

If your course is asynchronous, it may be a new concept not to have to be in class at a specific time. That said, this doesn’t mean you have free range to complete all the work right before the course ends. Be sure you follow your syllabus and are active in discussions so that you don't miss out on any due dates or deadlines. Set aside time to participate in the class and work on your coursework. 

Actively participate and leverage your network

At first, it may feel like you are learning on your own, especially since you can't see any of your classmates in person. However, that is not the case. Professors and instructors encourage you to participate actively and work together with classmates to complete assignments and lessons. Engage in the discussion, read your emails, ask questions, and be an active participant in the course.

"Generally from my perspective, online courses can be a really great experience. I’ve loved it. It takes a little getting used to but I do feel like you can get just as much out of an online class as an in-person one. It can be easy to get distracted, so you have to consciously put yourself in the headspace of “this is class, I’m in school, I’m here to learn” because you’re not in that physical space. The chat can be overwhelming because it can move really quickly, but you don’t need to keep up with every message sent. Having friends in class that you can text with (not during class, of course) to discuss assignments, readings, etc. can really help. And, of course, keeping in mind that even though you’re not physically with your classmates, you’re all in the same boat. If you suddenly had to jump into online learning and you’re disoriented, they probably are too! So cut yourself some slack and do your best, it’s okay to not be comfortable right away.” -Miranda Axworthy, iSchool student

For more information and tips on learning online, visit the following websites: