Tips for Success in ONLINE Classes

Success in online courses requires a shift in focus. This site provides materials to help you be successful in the online environment.

Getting Started

Orientation to Online Learning: check out this resource from UNC System about success in the online classroom, especially if you are new to online classes!

Tips for Success

Treat course as a REAL course. 

  • Set regular "meeting" times, regardless of if the class is synchronous or asynchronous.
  • "Attend" class during those times- don't skip!
  • Complete all of your assigned work on time.
  • Participate in class discussions.
  • Ask questions if you are confused or have not worked with a particular online tool.
  • Keep in contact with your professor and let them know about any issues. Do not wait until the last minute to reach out!

Set the stage (see video tutorial)

  • Study location
    • Lighting- good enough so as not causing eye strain
    • Temperature- cool, not cold, the temperature can help with focus
    • Organization- Have all of your materials available 
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Consider the time of day
    • When are you most focused?
    • When will you have time to complete the tasks?
    • When will you have better access to a distraction-free environment?

Use appropriate "Netiquette"

  • Remember the human. Though there is the feeling of anonymity in the online environment, remembering that a human being is on the other side of any message you send can help promote more positive interactions, benefitting everyone in the online environment.

netiquette infographic

Time management

  • Write down all due dates in a calendar.  
    • Use this "Semester at a glance", Google Calendar, or your own planner.
    • Be strict with yourself on deadlines- don't allow them to slip up on you!
    • Start on all readings and assignments right away, and whittle away at them.
  • Create a study plan
    • Set weekly goals- This keeps you focused on what you need to accomplish.
    • Consider using this form to help you stay on track.
    • Create a Reverse Plan for large projects (see this short tutorial for more information).

    • Use Google Calendar to complete this plan (video tutorial)
    • Plan to take breaks
    • Be assertive in protecting your study time. Tell friends and family that you will be available when you are done.
    • If your schedule permits, work on your studies earlier in the day. Most students are more productive earlier in the day, and this arrangement can help you avoid procrastination.
  • Struggling staying on task? Need assistance in making a plan? Meet virtually with a peer academic coach!

Reading Online

  • Efficient Reading Strategies- Review this short tutorial about how to make the most of your reading. 

  • Use technology tools to help
    • Highlighting tools in Google Docs, OneNote, etc.
    • Commenting tools in Google Docs, Word, etc.
    • To prevent distractions, use available apps to help (see "Set the Stage").
  • When needed, print online readings and highlight, take notes and annotate as usual.
    • Use this only for those readings that are MOST important.


  • Find an accountability partner
  • Use music
  • Take frequent breaks- our brains are not wired to extended periods of sustained attention. Breaks help us stay fresh and better able to focus. 
  • Remind yourself of the WHY- we sometimes forget WHY we are doing this. Taking a moment to remember this can help reenergize you.
  • Stay healthy- take care of yourself
  • Just get started- we can make ourselves believe that an activity is going to be awful and will avoid it. The act of getting started is often the hardest part. 
    • Use the 5-minute rule- set a timer for 5 minutes and get started on the work. Chances are, by the end of the 5 minutes, you will be engaged and won't need to stop. 

General Study Tips

  • Use the Study Cycle (for more information, see video tutorial below)


You can find tips for effective study sessions on this website.

Review Regularly! Have you ever experienced learning information initially and then when the test rolled around, feeling like you needed to start from scratch? That's because our brains need regular review to retain information long term! Check out Ebbinghaus' "Forgetting Curve" for a good visual of why this happens.

Ebbinghaus' forgetting curve explained: the importance of spaced learning  for memory -

What if I don’t understand something?

Check out additional resources here.