2. Preparing for Success


(25 minutes)
This page covers:


Online learning requires a commitment on the student's part. Keeping up with the class and completing all work on-time is vital. If you fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up. Basically, the student needs to want to be there, and needs to want the experience.

Your instructor may or may not allow you to turn in late assignments or make up an exam or quiz. So, let’s get started and find out what it takes to be successful in your online courses.

The second module takes you deeper into online learning. You will get to see:

  • If you can be a good online student
  • The truths and misconceptions with online learning
  • The benefit of online learning

Are you ready to be an Online Student?

It is important to know that online courses are not easier than face-to-face courses. They require organization, time management, and self-motivation.

However, online courses can provide flexibility- which is why students have an interest in taking them. Here are some of the questions that you should ask yourself to test your readiness for an online course.

  • First and foremost,
    • Do you have a reliable connection to the Internet?
    • Do you have access to a reliable computer (desktop or laptop)?
    • Do you have access to a printer?
  • Are you a good planner?
    • Can you set goals and deadlines?
    • Are you self-disciplined?
    • Can you stay on track and on time while studying?
  • What are your independent Learning Skills?
    • Do you learn easily?
    • Can you figure things out by yourself?
    • How good are you at following directions?
    • Can you learn on your own?
    • Are you comfortable emailing and discussing with others online?
  • How good are your technology skills?
    • Are you good at using different technologies?
    • Are you comfortable surfing the internet and working with web browsers?
    • Are you good at searches, setting bookmarks, and downloading files?
    • Can you install different applications on your computer?

What are you expectations of Online Learning?

Online learning is not new, but it is quickly evolving to become a more and more powerful tool for teaching and learning. We would like to give you a clear idea of what you can expect from online learning and provide you with some tips that will help you not only to succeed, but to excel, in your online course.

Incoming students sometimes have a preconceived notion of what online learning will be like.

These misconceptions have gotten in the way of some students who then found it difficult or impossible to complete their online courses successfully. We don't want you to be one of these students.

Let's start by addressing the seven most common misconceptions about online learning:

"I've heard that the online course is way easier than taking the same course on campus. You don't have to go to class, you just have to hand in assignments, and you're done."

The workload for any course is the same regardless of the way it's delivered. And if you really think about it, there is more reading in online classes because you must read all your teacher's instructions rather than hearing them in class. In an online environment, you need to be more self-disciplined and motivated because you won't be facing the instructor every session.

"If I'm taking an online class, I can turn in assignments whenever I want, right? I'll just get all of the assignments from the instructor and blast through it in two weeks rather than wasting a whole semester."

Regardless of what you think you may be able to accomplish at your own speed; most online courses are NOT self-paced. Some instructors reveal all assignments ahead of time and others may roll out course topics and assignments incrementally. The most successful students will concentrate on their work at the pace that the teacher has laid out.

Give yourself time to really focus on the course material and put your best effort into assignments - don't try to rush though the course just to "get it done". The online learning world is not much different from traditional campus courses: the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

"Online courses are always cheaper than taking classes on campus. Unless you're taking classes online, you're really just wasting your time and money."

Tuition fees for online courses are typically the same as your traditional on campus classes, but there are some "hidden" costs in taking a class on campus that you may have not considered. Let's see if you will be able to save money by taking classes online.

"Professors randomly call on students for answers in a lecture, but in an online class I can fly under the radar."

Don't be fooled by the illusion of anonymity in your virtual classroom. Even though you and your instructor may not be able to see one another, he or she can access reports on the quantity and quality of your course participation, and believe us, they will. They want to know how you're doing and how they're doing, and participation will be a key component of any of your classes. In fact, sometimes faculty knows more about their online students than their on-campus students.

(This one comes in two parts, but both center on your technical IQ.)

Part 1:
"I spend a lot of time on social media and I text my friends more than I talk to them. I don't need to learn any technical skills in order to take a class online."

Part 2:
"I don't really know my way around a computer, but clearly my instructor does. I'll just rely on him or her to help me figure it out during the semester. My online class will teach me any of the technical skills I need to figure it out, right?"

Online learning generally does not require extensive technical knowledge, but you must understand the basics about your computer, the internet, and how to use your school's Learning Management System (LMS), such as Canvas. Watch the "Getting Tech-Ready" tutorial for an overview of the technology you'll be using, then be sure to seek out information or tutorials provided by your school about Canvas before starting your course.

Take the time to really understand your online environment before you get too far into the semester: you won't want to wait until minutes before an assignment is due to learn which buttons you need to push in order to submit it.

"Email is basically instant, and I know my teacher checks her email all of the time. So, if I don't understand something or have a last-minute question about an assignment, I can email her, and she should respond right away. She's definitely up at 10 PM, and it would only take her 2 minutes to write back with the answer."

This is a misconception that we're sure all instructors would like to be cleared up from the outset. Most of your instructors provide a maximum email turnaround time, typically between 24-48 hours. As a student, you need to provide as much time as possible, and be sure to have an alternate solution if you don't hear back from your instructor before an assignment is due (remember, your assignments are your responsibility, not theirs).

Some instructors include a "Questions About the Course" discussion thread where they encourage students to answer one another's questions. This could be immensely helpful for you and might be a way for you to help other students in turn. (Remember what we said about building classroom relationships?)

Another approach would be to reach out to another member of the class and exchange private emails to support each other throughout the semester. Because you're not meeting with each other throught the week, it's easy to feel isolated in an online course. Try some of these tactics so you can connect with others - you will get a lot more out of your classes if you do.

"If I didn't finish an assignment on time, I used to tell my instructor that I accidentally brought the wrong notebook to class or that my printer ran out of ink. Now I can just say that my computer crashed, that I accidentally deleted my finished assignment, or that I just sent in the wrong attachment."

Probably none of these excuses will work. Remember, your instructors have not only heard every excuse in the book (probably more than once), but they are also pretty tech savvy themselves—they are, after all, teaching a college-level online course.

Make sure you fully understand your instructor's expectations and that you comply with them in a timely manner and keep an open channel of communication with them if you need help or have questions. Detailed information about your instructor's policies and expectations should be included on their course syllabus.

Benefits of Online Learning

Online classes will give you the flexibility to learn when you are ready to learn and at times that work with your schedule.

This can be a real plus for students with busy lives. In an online class you are not limited by "class times," so you don't have to worry about conflicts with other classes you want to take, your work schedule, or other time constraints!

Students who successfully complete online courses have found that the organizational skills they learned and used to complete their online courses made them better students in traditional courses they took later.

Online learning can provide you with the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with your professors and with other students taking the same course. Conversing online can seem strange or artificial at first, but once they get used to it, most people really enjoy online discussions.

Building supportive online relationships and friendships requires skill and practice. The good news is, students who develop good communication skills learn to be assertive and are able to cooperate and collaborate well in a virtual environment. Students will find these skills highly transferable (and valued) in their personal and professional lives long after their course is over.


Great job! You’ve now been introduced to some of the preliminary steps to test your readiness for online learning. You know about the facts and misconceptions of online learning and what benefits you gain along the way. Let’s move on and discover more in our journey of becoming a successful online learner.

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