Succeeding in Online Courses – Kate DeMello, Online Contributor


Academic success is something all students should strive for. It can be challenging to modify one’s technique for success in online courses, as opposed to face-to-face instruction. Here are some tips from someone who has both taken and taught online courses:


Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. If you have a question or are confused, do not hesitate to reach out to your peers and your instructor! Only when you communicate will you get the help you need. Your instructor wants you to succeed, and your peers may have the same questions as you, so don’t hesitate to speak up!


When it comes to communication, be courteous and appropriate. Communications to your professors should be written professionally and respectfully. Be sure that you include all of the relevant background information related to the topic of your correspondence. If you are having trouble or are confused, tell your instructor, or the technical support staff, the steps you have taken to try to rectify the problem.


When it comes to timing, though online classes afford you the flexibility to do your work when it is convenient for you, your instructor is most likely doing work and responding to messages during business hours. They may respond outside of these hours, but this should not be expected. Instructors are also active in ministry and are likely busy over the weekend preparing for church services and ministry. A good rule of thumb is to expect 48 -72 hours for response time from instructors, unless they have indicated that they are traveling or unavailable. This means that if you have questions about an assignment that is due on Sunday, you should reach out by Thursday to get a response in time.


Time Management

Most students are not naturally strong at time management. That means it is going to take some serious effort for you to develop and stick to a time management plan. Determine what days and times you will commit to your studies, and stick to it! You will also want to put all of your reading and assignments into a planner or calendar and make sure you set aside enough time to complete them. You may find it useful to work to complete all your items by Saturday morning, for example, so you can go out with your friends Saturday night. The most important thing is to find out what works for you, and do it!


If you find you are getting behind, reach out to your instructor immediately and make up the work you can. The longer you delay, the harder it will be to catch up. Communicate with your instructor and be diligent with the work you are given.


Know your strengths and how to use them

Are you great at memorizing? A visual learner? Find a way to take your strength and use it to help you learn the content for your course. There is an element of independence here that allows you to use your creativity. Do you learn from study groups? Create one online for your class! Do you learn by creating study guides? Make them and send them to your classmates! Find out what works for you, play to your strengths, and let that help you to succeed!

Know your weaknesses and how to overcome them

Just because something doesn’t come easy doesn’t mean it won’t come at all! Every successful person has developed grit – the tenacity to overcome challenges and persevere when things get hard. When you know that a certain type of challenge is especially hard for you develop a strategy to overcome it. At a loss for how to do this? Ask your instructor! He or she may have some suggestions that they have used or seen other students use with success. Above all, don’t forget that if God has called you to it, He will get you through it! It isn’t always easy, but it is temporary! Do your best and be proud of it!


Don’t overthink it! Start somewhere!

Sometimes students suffer from “Analysis Paralysis.” This has been my #1 struggle as an online learner. I think so much about what I want to do for a paper or project that I talk myself out of actually doing it! Don’t be afraid of what will happen if you don’t get it right! Start somewhere! If you’re really concerned, ask your professor if they have time to take a look at your draft before your final submission!


Imagine you are writing to someone less knowledgeable

The most common problem with papers I receive is that students assume that the reader is more knowledgeable than they are. Instead, consider that you are writing to someone less knowledgeable than you, but that your instructor is there to help you make sure you’ve got it polished before you give it to that final reader. This tactic will help you to make sure you have provided sufficient background information, explained foundational concepts, and are using appropriate vocabulary.


There are many strategies for success in online classes, and these are only the tip of the iceberg. Why not let us know on social media which strategies work for you?