Being Successful in an Online Course

The successful online student possesses unique qualities. You must be:

  • Self-motivated and self-disciplined. With the freedom and flexibility of the online environment comes responsibility. The online process takes a real commitment and discipline to meet course requirements and deadlines.

    As online courses do not take less time than an equivalent on-campus course, you can get behind and feel overwhelmed in a hurry. Developing a personal schedule for completing coursework and pacing yourself will be the key to success.

  • Able to make time to study and participate in class discussion, chats, and projects.

    • Login regularly to your classes. You will be expected to log-in multiple times per week and perhaps every day.
    • Plan ahead to ensure you have enough time to study and complete assignments.
    • Not put off studying and rarely procrastinate.
    • Take notes as you study.
    • Work cooperatively with others. Your online course will require you to interact and coordinate with others even though your communication is restricted to email, discussion postings, and chat.
  • Able to follow deadlines and due dates. Check your syllabus. Deadlines can be deadly in an online course!

    Missing a deadline or due date is one of the most common problems students have with online courses. There is no teacher in the front of the room reminding you to get your work done. It is up to you to watch the announcements, calendar, syllabus and/or the content area so you can plan your schedule to get work done before the due dates. It is always best to work as much ahead as is practical so that you have time to contact the instructor and get feedback from them if you have questions about the material or assignment.

    Deadlines and due dates will vary depending on the type of course and the instructor's preferences. The syllabus will tell you when the deadline and due dates are. Online courses at Hawkeye Community College are not open-ended, so you cannot work at your own pace and finish a course over a self-chosen period of time. Typically there are specific due dates for assignments, tests, homework, papers, projects. Some instructors require things to be completed in a specific sequence, some allow work to be completed ahead of time.

  • Able to communicate through writing. Nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that you feel comfortable in expressing yourself in writing.

  • Willing to commit 5–15 hours per week per course. Online is not easier than the on-campus course. In fact, many students will say it requires more time and commitment.

  • Able to meet the minimum requirements for the course. The requirements for an online course are no less than that of any on-campus course. The successful student will view online as a convenient way to receive their education—not an easier way.

  • Willing to speak up if problems arise or if you have questions. Many of the nonverbal communication methods that instructors use in determining when students are having problems (confusion, frustration, boredom, absence, etc.) are not possible in the online class. If you are experiencing difficulty at any level (either with technology or with the course content), you must communicate this immediately. Otherwise the instructor will never know what is wrong.

  • Able to think ideas through before responding. Meaningful and quality input into the discussions is an essential part of some online courses. Time is given in the process to allow for careful consideration of responses. You should be open minded and willing to participate. You should also be prepared to have your ideas challenged.

  • Able to learn how to use new programs on your own. You must have enough experience using computers and software that you can figure out how to use programs that are new to you.

  • Flexible and adaptable. Learning online is an adventure that will expose you to many new experiences. The ability to be flexible and remain open-minded is crucial to having a positive experience.

Your Experience and Comfort Level with Technology

To participate in your online course you must also have:

  • Moderate experience using a computer. You will need to know how to enter and retrieve course information on the computer and be able to receive and submit assignments and other materials. Other useful skills include being familiar with a word processing program and the ability to send and receive email including the use of attachments.

  • A good understanding of the web and its use, enough so that you are able to navigate from one site to another; to find things on the web, and to do searches if it is part of an assignment.

What's Your Learning Style?

Everyone has a preferred learning style. Knowing and understanding your learning style helps you learn more effectively, capitalize on your strengths, and improve your self-advocacy skills.

Discover your learning style.

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