Teaching Hub

So You’re an Online Student! Tips for Success

by Dr. Jennifer Roth-Burnette, Capstone Center for Student Success

blue sky dotted with hot air balloons

1. Treat online study like a job.

Plan 1.5–3 study hours per credit hour each week. If you are taking 12 credit hours, that’s 18–36 hours per week, depending on the difficulty of the courses you are taking. It’s a lot, but you can do it! Plan to spend the most time on the most difficult classes.

2. Manage your time proactively.

Treat your online course like a job, and schedule the hours you need to be “at work” on your class. Allow adequate time to read/ study material, watch any videos, complete assignments, and review notes.

3. Create a dedicated study space.

Choose a location that is quiet and uncluttered, with good lighting, where you can arrange your computer and study materials at home, or identify a local library with computers you can use for a portion of the day. When you go to study, focus on completing any readings, lecture videos, assignments and activities, while eliminating any distractions. Your brain will learn to switch to “study mode” when you go to your study space! Avoid study spaces that are typically used for relaxation (e.g., your bed or the couch where you play video games or use social media).

4. Take appropriate breaks.

Just as you would take periodic breaks on the job, take brief breaks from your study for a quick walk, fresh air, or a snack. If you find your eyes get tired while looking at a computer screen, be sure you blink often (to avoid dry eye) and rest your eyes by looking away from the screen for a few seconds every 10 minutes or so.

5. Read all material thoroughly.

This includes emails from your professors. In an online class, email is likely to be the primary way your professor will communicate with you. Read carefully and ask questions about anything you do not understand.  Be sure you are completing all of the assignments, activities, discussions, etc., that form part of your online course.

6. When you have questions, contact your professor!

Your course may be online but your faculty are still there for you to offer guidance and respond to any questions you may have.

7. Reward yourself for a job well done.

Studying is hard, and online study requires discipline! Plan to reward yourself after a successful day of study — spend time with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, or watch a movie, and come back refreshed and ready to work the next day.