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How to Succeed in Your Online Courses

Published: October 19, 2020

You may not have taken online classes before, but maybe you think you know how they work. You flop on the couch in your pajamas, click through a few PowerPoint slides, watch a video or two, take a short quiz, and finish up in time to watch your favorite reality show, right? Wrong. Online classes require hard work, time, dedication—just like face-to-face classes do. They can be great because of their convenience and flexibility, but before you commit, you should know what you’re getting into.

More than 7 million students in higher education take at least one online course. Online courses are often more accessible, affordable and convenient than traditional classroom courses, while still offering the same quality content. You can get all that you need from online classes, as long as you prepare. Here’s how to succeed in your online courses:

Be Sure Your Technology Is Ready for Online Classes

You can’t do the online work if you can’t get online. That’s why your very first step needs to be to make certain that your computer hardware, software and internet are all up to the task of helping you succeed. Confirm with the college what type of programs you will need for your course. Then, make sure you have dependable internet access. But remember, even if you don’t have an internet connection at home, there are plenty of places that provide free internet, such as libraries, community centers, bookstores, and even coffee shops.

Be Proactive With Your Online Instructors

When you sit in a classroom every day, it’s easy for the teachers to get to know you and your work ethic. But when you attend online classes, you have to put in a little more effort to build that relationship. Ask questions in class or reach out to your teachers via email with questions. Attend their virtual office hours. Ask them them about their work in the industry and what advice they may have for you.

Your online instructor will care about your success just as much as your classroom teacher –as long as they know who you are and believe that you’re willing to do the work they assign. Introduce yourself even before the course begins. Then, make certain to transfer the assignments and due dates from the course syllabus into action points for your calendar. Be prepared! And if you have questions about content or assignments, address them quickly.

Find Ways to Socialize in Online Courses

Online classes may feel isolating when you’re used to sitting in a classroom with your peers. That means it’s even more important to make the effort to socialize with your classmates. Join a study group or start your own. Get involved in virtual extracurricular activities or start a group chat on Teams or Facebook. You’ll get help with your schoolwork and make friends at the same time.

Stay Organized With Your Online Coursework

In high school, it was easy to follow the ringing bell on to your next class and to shove everything in your backpack and locker. But in online college classes, you’ll need to be way more organized than that. Since you can work from where you want and when you want, organization will be key. Buy a planner or download a scheduling app that can help you keep track of important dates, deadlines, and meetings. Set a “class time” for yourself and set up a specific online study space in your home.

It’s even more important to be well-organized when you’re taking online courses. Without set meeting times and dates, it’s sometimes easy to procrastinate and let things slide until they pile up. Pretend your online course DOES meet at set times and allot the same time every week to accomplish the work you need to. Set up reminders in your calendar so you never miss required postings, chats or assignments. Start assignments early so you’ll have plenty of time to get your questions answered as they arise.

Remain Committed to Online Learning

If you truly want to succeed in your online classes, you need be fully committed to doing your best work, on time, every time. Do the required reading, attend the online lectures, post to the necessary classroom forums, do all the assignments and take all the quizzes and tests before their deadlines. Don’t forget to let others know that you’re taking courses online and that you take them seriously. A little encouragement from family and friends might be just the added support you need to succeed.

You’ll Need to Manage Your Time in Online Courses

Without that ringing bell to signal the end of class, it can be very easy to get so wrapped up in an assignment that time passes you by. Use a timer app to set a specific amount of time to work on an assignment. If you juggle multiple assignments, you can always follow the Pomodoro method—work on an assignment for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, then work on another assignment for 25 minutes, and so on. As an adult, you now have multiple responsibilities, including work and family, so it’s important that you maintain a healthy balance among all of your priorities.


At Charter College, we’ll help you find success in our real and virtual classrooms. We offer online courses and blended learning that combine on-campus learning with online studies. We offer career-focused programs in accounting, business, healthcare, information technology, paralegal studies, veterinary assistance, and the trades.