Studying online? Habits for successful remote-learning

Want better grades in online classes?

Want to be a good online student? Develop good habits and stick with them. Here are habits that lead to success in learning via the Internet:

Schedule learning time.
Online learning works best when it is scheduled and the schedule is kept. To be sure, online classes offer a great deal of flexibility. However, there can be the temptation to try to fit in doing assignments "when I can find time."

Online classes often only last six weeks. So, even though there can be flexibility in terms of when one does online learning, block out time on your calendar each week to do coursework. Set aside 4-5 hours on a couple of days each week to do reading, research and assignment completion. In addition, set aside an hour or two each day to connect and respond to discussion board notes.
Do college-level work.
Accredited online programs expect college-level work. In non-school-realted email and social media activity proper spelling and good may not be an issue. In your college classes, spell words correctly. Use the spell checker! Then, before submitting, re-read what you've written to catch unclear thoughts. If specific formatting is required, know the rules and follow them. [ more on proofreading ]
Meet the attendance requirement.
Online courses often have attendance policies requiring you to connect and submit something substantive and relevant at least five days of each week. Sometimes schedules get crazy and it may become impossible to spend a lot of time doing classwork on a specific day. When that happens, take a few minutes to connect and send at least one response note. A sure way to see your grade deteriorate is to fall short of the attendance requirement. [ more on online attendance ]
Keep up.
Online classes are six to ten weeks long. So they could be labeled as "intensive" courses. Therefore, do not fall behind. Turn your assignments in on time. Try to read ahead. The most important advice an online student may be: Do not get behind.

If, for some reason, you miss an assignment due date, it is better to get the next assignment in on time rather than playing catch-up on assignment after assignment. When you have a little extra time and are all caught up, go back and pick up the assignment you missed.
Solve problems right away.
Faculty members want you to be a successful learner. If you are having problems, let professors know immediately. This is true whether it's a difficulty with understanding assignment instructions or your Internet connection. They will work with you and give you guidance. The worst thing you can do is to stop participating, and not let anyone know why.

Is the online learning process different from that encountered in a traditional face-to-face classroom?

Sage-on-the-stage versus Guide-on-the-side

In the traditional classroom, most students expect to be taught by a content expert who typically lectures for a good portion of the class. This content expert has come to be called the "sage on the stage" by those writing in the field of online education. The "sage on the stage" is the focus of the classroom attention with students striving to learn as much as possible from an instructor standing in front of them. If dialog takes place in the classroom, it is usually between the instructor and the student. Rarely is there dialog between one student and another.

In the online environment, the learning process springs from within the learning community as students reflect upon the course material and share their thoughts with other students on discussion boards. The online instructor is often referred to as a facilitator or as a "guide on the side." The facilitator guides the flow of the class and enables the students to learn from each other in a collaborative manner.

What does it mean to the online learner?

People new to online learning will soon realize that there are differences in how learning takes place and in the student's role in the learning process. In a traditional classroom setting, a student may walk into class, sit in the back of the classroom, and offer very little in the way of contributions to the class. While that student may have listened and taken notes, the rest of the class and the professor have little awareness of how much that particular student has learned or how much he or she knows about the topic. Whatever that student has done to prepare for that day's class session may not be clearly evident to anyone else in the class. One reason is that the evaluation of the student will take place during the final examination, or through papers and assignments turned in to the professor.

In the online class, every student sits on the front row and actively participates in all aspects of the class. Evaluation of the students' understanding of the material is based upon their daily involvement rather than on a single event such as a final examination or major research paper.

To be successful online, the student must be creatively engaged in the learning process. One benefit of online learning is the time available for reflection and response. In a typical face-to-face class, the instructor may pose a question to which answers are immediately expected. In the online environment, a student may think about the question, research it, and reflect on the best way to formulate an answer before sending it to the class. Students who tend to be introverted feel more freedom in how class participation occurs online.

Successful online students are self-disciplined and highly motivated to learn. Productive online students need the ability to work alone while also being able to demonstrate good thinking and reflection skills.

How much time will it take?

Online class time expectations

by office of Enrollment Services and Online Education, Nazarene Bible College

Sometimes students misunderstand what is meant by the "flexibility of online classes."

Flexibility is a strong selling point for online education. Students don't need to drive to a location once, twice, or three times a week to attend class. Schoolwork can be done after the kids go to bed. It can be done in the middle of the night. Or it can be done early in the morning. If you want to go to class in your pajamas, nobody is going to know or care. Online class fl;exibility allows a student who has an emergency to make up work the next day.

However, flexibility does not . . .

Here's the basic assumption: A student in a traditional college class is expected to spend 10 hours in class for every quarter-hour of credit. It is also expected that for every hour in class, a student will spend two hours reading, studying, and completing assignments. Thus, for every course's "hour" of credit, a student will devote about thirty hours to that course. For a three-hour course, this amounts to 90 hours. In a traditional on-campus course this is spread over 15 or more weeks of class. Thus, the weekly commitment for one course would be about 6 hours. By way of contrast, Nazarene Bible College online classes are only six weeks long. Therefore, students student should plan to give 15 hours a week to a course. (It could be more or less depending upon how fast you read and how fast your fingers are on the keyboard.)

To ensure you have time for your online course, set aside 5-6 hours of time twice a week as "school" time. Protect these times for coursework, just as you would for scheduled class times in a traditional program. Do not let other activities encroach on your study times.

You can set these study blocks whenever you want. That's why this program has flexibility. You, however, must develop your own consistent pattern. Along with significant blocks of time for reading and writing, you should set aside an hour or two each day to "connect", read notes, and respond to classmates and to the instructor.

Choose any time of day. However, we recommend that you keep it consistent. If you do it in the morning, do it every morning. If you do it after the kids go to bed, do it every night at that same time.

Practice good time management. Develop proper study habits and your online educational program will bring great fulfillment.

Drawing of
talkative personWhat kind of online student are you? Do others think of you as Busy or Wordy or Disconnected Dan? Do you sometimes come off to others as Oblivious or Trite-ly or even End-times Edith? . . [ read more ]


Developing good habits is essential to being a successful online student. Good online students are disciplined and motivated. Plus, they have developed good thinking and critical reflection skills. Online students who do well schedule their learning times and stick to that schedule. Successful online students engage creatively in the learning process and commit about 15 hours per week to coursework. They meet attendance requirements and avoid falling behind. They communicate promptly with professors when problems arise.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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