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EIU School of Extended Learning

Tips For Success in Online Learning

Develop communication skills, know what is expected of you as a student, be prepared for unexpected events, sharpen your study skills, and learn how to manage stress.


Online students interact with classmates and faculty primarily through writing. Students need to communicate their ideas clearly in the course work, while building working relationships with instructors, and forming supportive associations with classmates. Students will use online courseroom tools, email, discussion posts, and possibly voicemail to communicate with classmates and faculty. These messages should be delivered effectively and professionally.

Communication in the Online Courseroom:

    • Read and understand faculty expectations before starting work on the course.
    • Be courteous and professional.
    • Stay on-topic with course discussion posts, which should be substantive and provide
      additional insight.
    • Before posting comments, always check spelling, grammar, and punctuation and avoid
      using slang.

Email Communication:

    • Read the email message without bias to avoid misinterpreting the tone or content.
    • Respond to the email message in a courteous and professional manner, after briefly
      summarizing your understanding of it.
    • Articulate concerns to your instructor in detail, e.g., “Please explain for me what parts
      of my answers to the discussion question were wrong?"

Voicemail communication:

    • Talk slowly and clearly.
    • Provide your first and last name. Spelling your name may be necessary if the
      instructor is unfamiliar with it.
    • Provide your complete phone number twice.
    • Let the instructor know when you will be available for a return call and include
      your time zone.
    • Briefly summarize the reason for your call.

Discussion Participation:

  • Communicating with classmates and faculty in the discussion forum is one of the most important ways students effectively learn online.
  • Discussions contribute to in-depth comprehension of the subject matter, broader
    perspectives, exposure to other points of view, application of concepts learned, and a
    better grade for students.
  • Students who respond to discussion posts early increase the likelihood that they will
    complete the course and their degree program.
  • Post substantive responses to the courseroom discussion.
    • Discussion posts should be well thought out, complete, and clear—i.e., easily read.
    • Discussion posts should reflect clear understanding of the topic and include
      information that supports the student’s viewpoint.
    • Check grammar, spelling, and organization of ideas before posting.
    • Discussion posts should include relevant information from the readings, answer the
      instructor’s questions, and encourage further discussion by engaging classmates
      with the interpretation of the issue.
  • Post on time so classmates have an opportunity to respond.
  • Student posts should fulfill the instructor’s requirements for assignments by meeting
    instructor expectations for the discussion forum.
  • Reply to classmates in the course room discussion in a manner that encourages further
    discussion. For example, go beyond “I agree” by stating why you agree or disagree
    with a person, then ask an open-ended question to promote deeper discussion.
  • Always submit assignments on time.

Overcoming Obstacles

    • Students should plan as well as they can for the possibility of unforeseen technical
      problems or crisis events.
    • Technical Problems: Online students depend on computer and internet access to
      complete their work, yet a hard drive can crash and internet access can be out due to
      storms and other circumstances.
    • Assignments should be backed up frequently on an external drive or by emailing them
      to oneself.
    • Know where you can go for free computer and internet access—e.g., public library.
    • Acquire permission to use workplace computers.

Study Tips

Study Prep:

  • Form study habits that work well for you as an online student.
  • Since online courses are reading intensive, students may print hard copies so they can
    read on the go.
  • Students can copy and paste important information into a word processing
    document, which allows them to change to the font size and text layout that best
    reduces strain on the eyes.
  • Find a comfortable and quite place to study, with minimal distractions and

Take Advantage of Technology :

Download audiobooks

Stress and Wellness

  • Since students are balancing professional, personal, and academic commitments,
    they often feel overwhelmed. Therefore, it is essential that they apply strategies
    to effectively manage stress: 1. take breaks, 2. exercise, 3. get enough sleep,
    4. set "quiet times", or speak with an academic advisor.
  • Understand myths about stress (Adapted from Miller, L. H. Miller, & Smith, A. D. (2004). The stress solution. American Psychology Association):
    • Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody. This statement is incorrect; because, stress affects people differently and each person reacts to stress differently. What is stressful for one individual may or may not be stressful for another person.
    • Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you. When stress is managed properly, it causes a person to produce better and feel happier; but, mismanaged stress damages and can even kill people.
    • Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you can't do anything about it. This is incorrect; because, people can plan their lives so that stress does not overwhelm them by setting priorities and working on and solving simple problems first and then tackling more complex problems. If stress is not properly managed, then stress appears to be everywhere to a person.
    • Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones. Since individuals react to stress differently and become stress by different things, a educational plan personalized to the individual is most effective.
    • Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress. Showing no signs of stress does not mean a person is not experiencing stress. Medications may conceal the stress that individuals are experiencing.
    • Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention. Consequently, minor symptoms (e.g., headaches or stomach acid) may be ignored. Minor symptoms are early warning signs that a person’s stress needs to be managing better.
  • Click here to learn how stress affects the body:

Time Management Skills

Since online learning requires self-direction and motivation from students, learning to effectively manage one’s time is paramount to successfully completing the course and/or program. Instructors will provide structure within the course through the syllabus, assignment descriptions, deadlines, grading rubrics, and feedback; yet, much of the student work is completed outside of the online courseroom. So, students should build their own schedule for completing the course by establishing:

  • When to log in to the course.
  • When to complete weekly reading assignments in preparation for discussions and assignments.
  • When to participate in weekly discussions.
  • When to complete assignments.
  • When to work on increments of larger projects due later in the semester.

Online students should be self-directed by:

  • Understanding priorities.
  • Setting both short- and long-term goals.
  • Creating effective schedules.
  • Rewarding self for reaching goals along the way.

Online students should be resourceful by:

  • Taking time to learn about and use resources that are available on the School of Extended Learning website.
  • Making contact with their advisor routinely.
  • Communicating effectively to increase efficiency.
  • Knowing where to find the answers to their questions.

Online students can be proactive by:

  • Planning ahead with assignments.
  • Setting time to work on major projects early in the quarter.
  • Allowing ample time to ask the instructor questions and receive feedback.
  • Communicating with their instructor.

Related Pages

Contact Information

School of Extended Learning

600 Lincoln Avenue
Charleston, IL 61920
(217) 581-5114

Academy of Lifelong Learning

600 Lincoln Avenue, Buzzard Hall Room 1328
(217) 581-7415

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