The big difference in an online course is that students can do the work via the internet any time of day and, typically, any day of the week. The instructor can usually be reached by Canvas discussion, e-mail, and/or instant messaging.

Learning online requires new strategies:

  • Plan your time.
    You should plan to spend at least the same amount of time you would spend for a face-to-face class. For a 3 unit class, that would be about 9 hours per week (3 in-class hours plus 6 homework hours).
  • Familiarize yourself with the course’s online delivery system (e.g., Canvas).
    Click on the links in your course and learn where everything is. Find the course syllabus, requirements, methods of communication, where you go for help, etc.
  • Keep your contact information current.
    Make sure you have your current email address in Self Service so you can be contacted when necessary.
  • Participate!
    Whether you are working alone, or in a group, contribute your ideas, perspective and comments on the subject you are studying, and read about those of your classmates.
  • Get the support of your colleagues, family and friends before you start your online course. This built-in support system will help you when you have to sit at your computer while others around you are ready to relax.
  • Make sure you have a private space where you can study.
    It helps to have a quiet space of your own where you can shut the door and have books or papers easily available.
  • Log on to your course often.
    ….or a minimum of 3-4 days a week. If you let too many days go by without logging on to your course discussion group, you will get behind and find it very difficult to catch up.
  • Take time to be thorough.
    Take the time to think your ideas through and compose a response before posting your comments to your class. It is important to adhere to correct spelling and grammar rules. Avoid typing in all capital letters (considered to be shouting), and avoid abbreviations and informal language (I'll C U L8R).
  • Be polite and respectful.
    Remember, you are communicating with real people who have feelings, sensitivities, and opinions. Exhibit the same professionalism as you would in the workplace to create a productive and supportive environment in your online class. Before hitting the Send or Submit button, ask yourself, "Would I say this to the person face-to-face?"
  • Speak up if you are having problems.
    When you enrolled in an online course you indicated that you could work in a self-directed environment. That doesn’t mean you are alone. First, look around the course to try and find the answers to your questions. You can also post or send questions to your classmates or help them out. Finally, you may contact your instructor with any unanswered questions.
  • Apply what you learn.
    If it is possible, take the things you learn in your online course today and use them in your workplace or in other classes tomorrow. Also, try to make connections between what you are learning and what you do or will do in your job.


(Copyright: Parts of this paper are reproduced from the Illinois Online Network (ION). Copyrights are owned by the ION and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois except in cases where the original creator retains copyright of the material.)