5 Tips for Succeeding in Online Classes

Students using computers in the Hasbrouck lab

In college, few things bring out more polarized opinions than online classes. Whether you love them or hate them, there comes a point in nearly everyone’s college career when it makes sense to take at least one, be it to catch up on necessary classes over break or to streamline a class schedule. A number of people consider them very easy; others find them impossible. In the end, the same rules apply to them as to any other college course; it’s mostly dependent on the professor, the class, and the student. No matter your particular situation, however, you can succeed!

#1: Plan Ahead

The biggest reason I hear from fellow students about why they failed an online class is the same as their reason for failing their regular classes: they didn’t set aside enough time for the work. With an online class, you have to find out when things are due and prepare for them in a timely manner. Find out at the beginning of the semester what days big projects will be due, and write the dates down in a planner. Then look at your own schedule and find a time each week when you can work at smaller projects that occur regularly. And there will be smaller projects! Since there is no in-class lecture, professors have to find other ways to make sure students learn the material, and this is often done through weekly quizzes or forum posts. These will probably be due on a specific day each week, and you will not want to miss them.

#2: Understand the Course Website

Personally, I’ve been through three different online learning platforms. They’ve all functioned differently. They all look different. Worst of all, none of them have ever worked properly, and I’ve lost countless essays, posts, and quizzes into the digital abyss. But guess what? Learning both the platform and your specific course’s site is half the battle. Test all tabs and links to make sure you can access them; sometimes it can be a problem with your computer, and sometimes it’s an uploading error, but the important thing is to find out if something is unavailable as soon as possible, so the situation can be corrected and your work can be submitted on time. Of course, plan to upload a bit before the due date (or hour, let’s be realistic here) so there will be time to resolve technical problems. Additionally, make sure you know where your professor keeps links for assignments and lectures so you won’t miss important information.

#3: Purchase (And Use) All Required Outside Materials

Basically, if your online class recommends a textbook, get the textbook. Professors usually use a combination of their own lessons and textbook material, and the emphasis is almost always on the information in the textbook when it comes to quizzes and forums. It pays off to use your textbook in the end. The same also applies to outside resources such as software and study guides, since it’s quite likely they will be utilized at some point during the course.

#4: Keep an Orderly Study Space

Just like for all other classes, it’s important to have a stable, quiet space to work and study in. For online classes, this is twice as important, since you are both learning the information and working on assignments in this area. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your work space, so make sure it’s as neat and comfortable for you as possible. Keep your textbook and planner here in a prominent place so they won’t get lost or forgotten.

#5: Check All Work

Online courses are often writing-heavy, since there are usually forum posts and papers that take the place of classroom discussion. Since you have the opportunity, make sure you check your writing for grammatical errors and message clarity. A quick proofread can make all the difference to your professor and earn you a much better grade. Checking also applies to uploading; make sure your essay or post shows up on the site after you’ve uploaded it. The only thing worse than uploading poor work is finding out you didn’t upload anything at all!


Like with any college class, a bit of self-reliance and proactivity does a great deal to help you get A’s. Treat your online class with the same importance as on-campus classes, while keeping in mind the differences and accounting for them, and you will do just fine. And enjoy it! After all, who doesn’t like earning college credit while snuggled up in pajamas at home?


SUNY Ulster Senators (that's you) like to share...Share on TumblrShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

1 Comment on 5 Tips for Succeeding in Online Classes

  1. I love that point about how one of the biggest reason why people fail online classes is the same reason why people fail regular classes. I’ve heard so many people state why each one is better. However, I agree that it comes down to whether you’re willing to set enough time aside to get the work done.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.