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Tips for Success In The Online Classroom

The popularity of online education is quickly growing in universities and colleges in the United States. It reaches students who, for various reasons, may not be able to complete their education in a traditional classroom environment.

Online learning can be a rewarding, stimulating, and fun experience as students and faculty intensely interact with each other in the virtual classroom. At the same time, online education can be daunting, particularly for the students with little or no experience in the online classroom.

Frequently students think that because an online course is more convenient and flexible, that it will be less time consuming that a traditional face to face class. This is often not the case. In fact, it is not at all unusual for online courses to demand more of the student's time, as the learning is largely self-directed.

Before deciding to take online courses, it is important for students to realistically think about how many courses they can comfortably handle during a semester or term, given their family and work responsibilities, etc. Below are some guidelines and suggestions for achieving success in any online course.

1. Students need to complete any orientation to the online classroom provided to familiarize themselves with all the components in the virtual classroom. They should take the time to thoroughly acquaint themselves with each section of the classroom: class announcements or bulletin board, syllabus, class conferences or    participation section, posted course material, electronic reserved readings, webliography, and student portfolio or grade book. Students should open each section to see how each is organized and navigated.

2. Students can thoroughly familiarize themselves with the expectations of the        instructor for each class by reading the entire syllabus. Due dates for reading and written assignments, and expectations for the frequency and depth of participation should be noted. Questions should be asked of the instructor as soon as they come up.

3. The online classroom should be visited several times per week or per the   
instructions provided in the syllabus. Class participation should be frequent and reflect critical analysis, synthesis, and application of ideas for each set of readings.  Also, postings in the class participation section need to meet any specific requirements as set forth in the syllabus. While students can share personal experiences, it is important that these experiences directly relate to the concepts or ideas for the readings.

4. Students need to thoroughly familiarize themselves with technical support    
students to know the kind of assistance provided, how to access this support, and 
available at their college or university for online students. It is very helpful for students to know the kind of assistance provided, how to access this support, and exactly when it is available to students. 

5. Students should know how to contact and when to expect a reply from faculty with any course-related questions or concerns they might have. This means having an e-mail address and/or phone number at which the instructor can be reached.

These guidelines are offered with the hope they will provide useful tips to assist students effectively navigate in the online classroom, and to achieve their learning goals. While taking an online class for the first time may appear intimidating, these suggestions are intended to demystify the online learning process and to provide ideas students can use to make virtual learning exciting and well worth the effort!

Robin A. Majeski, PhD
Collegiate Associate Professor, Psychology
University of Maryland University College
Adelphi, MD 20783

UMUC began offering courses electronically in 1994, and is a pioneer in online learning, globally. UMUC holds the highest honor given in Web education, the Sloan Consortium Award, and their gerontology program won the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) regional mid-Atlantic award for Program Excellence in October 2003 and UCEA's National Award for Outstanding Program in April 2004.

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