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Tips for Success in Your Online Course

Taking an online course often allows a great deal of flexibility in where and when you complete your coursework.  That flexibility however means you have to take some extra steps to be successful. You have to be proactive about creating some of the structure you get naturally in a face-to-face course. Here are six tips to help you stay successful in an online course.

Use a Calendar
Using a calendar for your online course will help you to visualize everything you need to accomplish and when it needs to be accomplished.  For example, set aside six hours per week for each online course.  Break this up into 2 hour sessions and then select days and times when you are typically available to participate in the online course.  Add these days and times to your course calendar.   

Establish a Good Workspace
In a face-to-face course, you split your time between a classroom and some place outside of the classroom to study and complete assignments. With an online course, all of your time is spent outside of the classroom. Therefore, it's even more important that you have a good place to do your work. Find a quiet place with a good internet connection, access to power, and freedom from distraction. Ideally, this would be a place you can routinely visit throughout the course so that when you are there, you know it's time to get down to business.  

Know Your Resources
Figure out as early as possible all of the technologies, websites, and campus resources you may need to use in the course and master them. Ensure your computer is working well, install any needed software, and verify your browser is up-to-date. If the course will use special tools, test them out early to ensure they work on your system so you can focus your attention on course materials and not be distracted by technology problems.  

Actively Participate in Discussion
Discussions count as your in-class participation and are an important part of your grade.  Be sure to put real thought into what you write to create quality posts.  Discussion posts should be your educated perspective on the assigned topic with reference to the required material. 

Be Mindful of Your Online Tone
One of the biggest challenges with communicating online is getting your tone right. The online environment often does not have the benefits of facial expressions, pitch and rate of voice, or physical proximity to help clue others in on what you really mean when you share an idea. At times, students find that they intend to share an innocent idea only to have it taken the wrong way because of the words they use or the typographic choices they make. Writing in complete and clear sentences, actively affirming what others say before you disagree, thoughtfully using emoticons, and not writing in ALL CAPS can help avoid some of the common tone mishaps online.  Be sure to extend "intellectual charity" to your classmates, being respectful even when you strongly disagree. In fact, that respect can go a long way to opening up rich lines of communication that the online environment can offer!  

Actively Communicate with Your Faculty
You may not see them face-to-face each week, but you can still keep in contact! It is a good idea to actively communicate with your professor. Let them get to know who you are, what your interests in the course are, and where you could use some extra help. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for help - establish a relationship early on so that you can get help right from the start.

Updated: 7/2017