Student Strategies to Get the Most Out of an Online Class

By Susan Sportsman, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN

Online courses provide you the convenience of being able to learn whenever, wherever, and however works best for you. However, challenges often arise in online education, which require student preparation to ensure success. Develop the following skills to flourish in online education.

    1. Independence and persistence. Set your intention to succeed in this online course and be willing to do what is necessary to meet the course requirements. Recognize that you must be willing to tolerate technical problems, seek help when needed, work daily on classes, and persist through a variety of challenges.
    2. Time-management skills. You will need to be organized in your studying. Don’t think that online courses will be less challenging than face-to-face courses—that’s not the case!
    3. Basic technical skills. You will need to create new documents, use a word processing program, navigate the internet, and download software. Make sure that your computer meets your school’s hardware and software requirements.
    4. Reading and Writing Skills. Reading and writing are the main ways you will communicate in an online class. Although some hard copies of textbooks might be required, you should be comfortable reading lots of documents on a computer screen and be able to type efficiently.

Study Tips for Online Learning Success
Here are some tips for online learning success to make sure you get the most value out of your class.

    1. Treat an online course like a “real” course—or like a job. Engage in the content on a regular basis throughout the course.
    2. Prepare a comfortable study setting—one that is quiet and enables you to work without distractions from things such as television, family, or roommates. Also avoid games, cell phone, social media and random internet surfing.
    3. Hold yourself accountable and make a study plan. Develop dedicated blocks of time each day for study, based upon your own lifestyle and schedule. Set goals regarding your studying at the beginning of the semester and check in with yourself weekly. This strategy will help you avoid procrastinating on assignments. If you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a friend to check in as an accountability partner.
    4. Practice time management, which might include:
      • Reviewing the syllabus at the beginning of the semester, noting major assignments and other commitments.
      • Create a weekly schedule, on your calendar, identifying certain hours per week for reading, watching lectures, completing assignment, etc.
      • Review your performance throughout the term. Ask, “How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time necessary to get things done?”
    5. Work with your colleagues in the course to discuss lessons and study. However, do not believe that it will be easy to cheat online by copying another’s work. Online learning platforms are sophisticated and faculty have strategies to recognize plagiarism and other types of cheating.
    6. Break up your study sessions. Short, 5-10 minute breaks can help you clear your head and refocus.
    7. For a longer or complex assignment, break the assignment into manageable sections.
    8. Communicate regularly with your instructors—they are there to support you. Ask questions as they occur.
    9. Use rules of proper “netiquette,” including:
      • Respect your professor in all communication, including using the correct title (or the name the professor has indicated is appropriate for them). Before asking a question, consult the resources available to you.
      • Use proper grammar in all communications. Avoid slang, misspellings, or overly informal language.
      • Be aware of tone. Sarcasm doesn’t translate to the internet, particularly if the recipient of your message is not a close friend or colleague. Avoid ALL CAPS, as it indicates yelling.
      • Be respectful in all communications.
      • Pay attention to all emails in an email chain before responding.
      • Reward yourself when you do well on an assignment, paper, and especially a course!


Claudio, Luz, Stempek, R., (2020) Online students manual for success:  How to study for success, how to find a tutor, and excel in the digital classroom.  Accessed, March, 2020.

________ (2019) 8 strategies for getting the most out of an online course. February 4. Accessed, March, 2020.

Minnesota Online High School and Minnesota Department of Education. (2020) What make a successful Online Learner. Minnesota State CAREERwise.

Good College Team (2020) 21 Study Tips for Online Classes Success.  Accessed, March 2020.

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