Experts’ top tips for success in online classes

Nearly 5,000 students are enrolled in online courses at CSU this semester. Many study fully online, and others are taking just one or a few of their classes online. Regardless of your online course load, it’s important to remember that studying online comes with a unique set of advantages and challenges.

Several CSU professors and instructors have offered their advice for success in online courses. Here are some of their best tips.

Get to know your instructor and peers

Linnea Sudduth Ward, instructor

Taking the time to get to know your classmates and instructor can truly transform your online learning experience. Doing that, it turns out, can lead to all kinds of benefits, like the amount of communication you have with your peers, your satisfaction with the course, and even how much you feel you are learning. So remember to:

  • Introduce yourself by uploading a picture, audio recording, or even a video of yourself on Canvas.
  • Engage with others’ introductions. Read them, listen to them, and make sure to say hello.
  • Stay involved throughout the semester. Bring your many valuable experiences into class discussions—you would be doing your instructor and classmates a disservice if you failed to be involved.

Consider your behaviors in class

Jody Donovan, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students

It may seem strange to think about ‘behaviors in class,’ and yet, every time students log into the online learning environment, they are in class. Students in online courses are responsible for engaging in the class multiple times throughout the week, fulfilling various requirements for participating in discussions and posting content. Being thoughtful about these behaviors when sitting at home, in coffee shops, and at the library extends the learning environment outside of the classroom.

When taking an online class, be sure to remember to:

  • Log in often and look for new information posted throughout the week.
  • Pose quality questions and engage in dialogues to satisfy your curiosity, not just to earn points. Remember, quantity does not equate to quality.
  • Don’t just do the work; engage deeply with your classmates and the material. Go beyond the information presented by doing additional research.
  • Be open and a little vulnerable with your classmates. Challenge yourself to be authentic in every interaction.

Avoid falling behind

Pete Seel, Professor, Journalism & Media Communication

Taking classes online requires a bit of extra self-discipline. It can be difficult to stay on schedule when you don’t have someone standing in front of you reminding you of deadlines. As many veteran online students will attest, if you fall behind in a course, it is difficult, if not impossible, to catch up; so be sure to:

  • Leave yourself time to complete and upload your assignments each week, including time to carefully proof and edit your work. Finding and fixing these errors will often raise your assignment grade substantially.
  • Plan ahead for work/life obligations, and communicate about them with your professor early on. We make accommodations for students on campus, and we’ll do it for online students as well, as long as they don’t wait too long to make the inquiry.
  • Communicate with your instructor regularly. I am much more receptive to working with students to catch up in a course if they have made an effort to communicate with me about their problems, whether they are academic, work-related, or personal.

To read more tips for studying online, visit the ValuED blog from CSU Online.

Colorado State University Online