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10 Tips Critical for Online Learning Success

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Online learning may be new to you, or perhaps the intensity of college courses is new to you. Maybe you need a little help with a difficult class or schedule one semester. Either way, you'll probably need a little help on the road to earning your degree!

Here are ten tips from successful online students. They may not all apply to you today, but you never know when you’ll need these important lessons during the course of your study. 

1)  Organize, Organize, Organize

The flexibility of online classes can seem like a challenge for some. The lack of a physical classroom or set meeting time in some cases can concern some students. Just like any class, it’s up to you to get organized and keep yourself on track. Organizing your assignments and physical space can make a huge difference in your success.

Make sure to keep your email inbox clean and have clear, accessible folders on your computer or in the cloud. Set reminders to check message boards, email classmates, and check in with your professor. Establish a clear “digital” environment when it’s time to work. By only keeping relevant browser windows open, you reduce the risk of getting distracted.

Organization makes a huge difference!

2)  Know what resources are available to you.

You can likely find assistance with anything from time management to writing skills just by exploring your options on your school's website or by seeking advice from a professor, advisor, or fellow student. Read your welcome and orientation materials closely, as well as your syllabuses for individual classes.

And when in doubt, just ask! Never hesitate to ask your advisor, coaches, classmates and professors for help. You'll be amazed at the resources available to you.

3)  Be mindful of a workable schedule.

Find a physical or digital planner to help you plan your day as completely as you can, down to the hour.  Then stick to the plan! Without a commitment to following your schedule, it may be easy to stay late at work one day and miss your appointment at the library for a learning module, or keep working on classwork when you’ve scheduled for a family game night.

A good, workable schedule will help you stay focused and balanced. Remember to re-evaluate every semester. Life happens, and you may need to make adjustments. 

4)  Connect with your professors and advisor early and often.

As an online student, you may never meet with your advisor or professors face-to-face, but they'll be your primary resources and probably first points of contact. Make sure they know who you are! Take the time to introduce yourself. If you attend live online classes, ask questions in real time.

If you're not the type of person to raise your digital hand, jot down your questions and ask your teachers later. The relationship you'll have with your advisor and professors will extend long after you finish your program. You may ask them for career advice, or for a recommendation for a job or grad school one day. 

5)  Test drive your tech.

Not all technical requirements will be the same for every college or university and sometimes they even vary between classes within the same program. Be sure to test drive/double check everything before you need to log in for the first time.

6)  Be mindful of your workspace.

Find a space that says to you “this means it is class time.” Although you can technically curl up on the couch to do classwork, there's a good chance you'll be distracted by your family or the TV. Instead, look for a quiet corner of a table, an office, or even a library or coffee shop where you won’t be distracted.

7)  Lean on your classmates.

Many first timers in an online class think they'll feel isolated from their classmates, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Reach out to fellow online students.

Even if you don’t interface directly as part of your course requirements, setting up a virtual discussion group or study session to review material will not only be helpful, but could help you meet new friends. And you never know, your classmates may become resources for future job searches.

8)  Check in regularly with your family and employer.

Your support system outside of your courses is crucial to your success. Be clear about how your classes are going, and seek feedback on and how your time management is working from their points of view. Chances are, they’ll be excited to hear about your progress and want to help you find solutions to any challenges you may face.

9)  Set clear goals (even if you don’t share them).

As you progress through your program, give some thought to what your immediate and long term goals might be, and then write them down. Revisit the goals every once in awhile to remind yourself of why are you taking classes in the first place.

It might be a good idea to even discuss them with your friends and family. This can be a very powerful tool for encouragement.

10)  Make a plan for other responsibilities.

This includes babysitting, eldercare, and even things like lawn care and housework. Your time will be more limited now that you’re taking classes. But if you have a solid plan in place, your distractions will be much fewer.

Students attending online classes at Old Dominion University receive ODU's full academic, technical, and career support.

In addition to support from before application through to graduation, ODUOnline students have free access to a number of tools ranging from financial aid to writing help, software, and even résumé writing tips for when you need it.

Visit online.odu.edu/student-support to learn more or fill out the form below to get connected to an enrollment coordinator to find out if ODUOnline is a good fit for you!

Have questions? Contact us.








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