8 Simple Steps for Online Course Success

Become an online class master!

Christina Salvadore, assistant dean of online learning student support,

Online classes can be challenging, but these eight simple tips will have you mastering your online courses in no time!

1. Communicate with your instructor. If you’re having trouble with a course or just want to get to know your instructor better, reach out to them via email or take advantage of their office hours. Your instructor will be available for office hours (phone and/or video) during scheduled times each week. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek clarity, or ask about college support services.


2. Read instructions carefully. Your instructors might send out weekly announcements through email or Blackboard. They might include weekly checklists for you to follow. However they prefer to communicate class expectations to you, it is very important that you take your time to review instructions so that you can complete coursework correctly. If you are unclear on instructions, contact your instructor for clarity.


3. Manage your time. Plan appropriate time to complete work and meet deadlines. Begin by reviewing your course’s syllabus and assignment schedule for the semester. This will help you anticipate exams and big assignments. At the start of each week, take note of any upcoming deadlines. Create a to-do list (in whatever way you prefer – pencil and paper, calendar app on your phone, set alarms on your phone, etc.). Plan out time during the week where you will spend time on your coursework. Try not to wait until the last minute to start assignments. If you do this and a problem comes up, you’ll be giving yourself little time to seek assistance.


4. Take advantage of available services. Your courses aren’t the only thing that are online! Did you know that helpful resources including the Library, Tutoring from the Learning Center, and Career Services are available online, too? Getting assistance from these resources can help you improve your course performance and student experience.


5. Establish a productive study space. When possible, complete your coursework in a space that helps you focus. Everyone has different preferences but many people benefit from a quiet space that is free of distractions. You’ll also want to keep all of your supplies handy including textbooks, class notes, notebooks, etc. Try to keep things organized so that you can spend more time completing your work and less time searching for supplies.


6. Save early and often. You’ll be working hard on assignments for your online courses. Make sure to save progress often while working on your computer. You might consider typing your drafts on Google Docs or a similar tool that saves content automatically for you.


7. Get to know your classmates. It’s not unusual for an online course to feature group projects or frequent discussion board activities. These are opportunities for you to get to know your classmates and learn together. Every student brings different perspectives to the course. Don’t underestimate what you can learn from your peers. You might even consider starting virtual study groups to help prepare for exams!


8. Pace yourself. Rather than try to complete all of your readings and assignments in one sitting, break up your weekly coursework into more manageable pieces. This will help you to absorb information better. It will also help you to meet deadlines better since online instructors will often schedule a few assignment deadlines across each week.


For more tips and information, check out Northampton Community College's Online Learning FAQ and the Virtual Campus YouTube Channel. Contact the Office of Online Learning by calling 610-332-6089 or emailing OnlineLearning@northampton.edu.