Tips for Success

Online Learning or Distance Education (DE) courses at the University of Guelph provide flexibility in accessing course content as well as managing your learning and communication with your instructor and classmates. You may do your work at a time and place that is convenient for you; however, there are deadlines for assignments that must be met. It's important to keep pace with your coursework--submitting assignments or participating in online discussions--and follow the schedule set by your instructor.

To be successful in your online course, you might consider the following tips to help you stay focused and organize a study routine.

Get Started

Your course website acts as your classroom. Start by navigating through all the course components to become comfortable with the organization of the course and familiar with the course expectations. If you are new to online learning or to CourseLink--the University of Guelph's online learning management system--review the Start Here tutorial within your course to get familiar with various content areas and tools of the learning environment. It is highly recommended that you review the course Outline and assignment instructions as well as the Schedule page where you will find a weekly timeline and due dates.

Get Organized

To get the most out of your learning experience and succeed in an online course, you will be expected to do the following:

Log in to the Course Site Every Day

This will help you to access all the necessary information and check for new course developments. If you feel lost in the online course environment, don't panic. Look for News postings (i.e., instructor's announcements) on your course home page that might give you information about how to proceed.

Keep up with the Course Readings and Activities on a Weekly Basis

Spend approximately 9 to 12 hours per week to complete your coursework. Remember, when you take a face-to-face course on campus, you usually spend three hours a week in class and an additional six to nine hours a week on coursework. In a DE course, you will need to spend all of these hours online.

Pay Close Attention to the Instructions and Criteria for Your Assignments

Review all instructions before you submit your original work for marking. Unfortunately, marks can be lost, even on high-quality work, simply because instructions are not followed. Submit all required assignments on time as specified on the Schedule page.

Be Sure to Check the Technical Requirements

Make sure you have the proper computer, a supported browser and reliable Internet access. Remember that technical difficulty is not an excuse to miss your assignment deadlines. To avoid getting behind, don't wait until the last minute.

Determine and Implement Effective Time Management Skills

Carefully read the course schedule to help you create a structure for participation and manage your workload in the course. Plan to set aside time each week to complete course readings and assignments. Visit the Schedule page to chart out your workload and timelines for completion.

Online courses are just as academically demanding as face-to-face courses. Assess and make modifications to your learning style in order to become an independent learner, with guidance from your instructor. Be prepared for self-study and for monitoring and pacing your learning.

Stay Active and Engaged

Take Responsibility for Your Learning and Success in Your Course

Be active and establish supportive relationships with your peers and the instructor. Your participation impacts not only your learning but the achievement of your fellow students. Demonstrate your engagement by applying what you are learning to activities and assignments. Your instructor is looking for what you can do, not what you can remember. Be prepared to reflect upon your progress.

Participate Actively in Discussions

Post messages and reply to the discussions on a weekly basis. Since you are part of a community of learners in this course, a lot depends on your participation in course activities. Make meaningful contributions to the discussions and avoid last minute participation. If you are required to provide comments to your classmates' discussion contributions, you will be letting them down if you don't post your replies in a timely manner.

Make friends and have fun!

Since your entire course community participates in online discussions, you will have the chance to get to know your instructor, TA and classmates, sometimes better than in a face-to-face course. Keep in mind that the more you contribute to your online course, the more you will get out of it.

Ask Questions

Ask for help when you need it. In an online course, you are expected to ask your instructor questions and find solutions to content or course-related issues with which you are unfamiliar. Your instructor can't act until the issue is brought forward. Additionally, make use of discussions to post questions and look for answers; for example, you can post your questions in a designated discussion (e.g., Main Class or Ask Your Professor discussion). Be proactive when you have problems. If you have a question concerning a personal matter, please send your instructor a private message. Refer to the Outline for instructor contact information.

Develop a Weekly Routine

As mentioned earlier, flexibility and self-regulation are inherent in online learning. They can also be major challenges if you tend to procrastinate or lack good time management skills; therefore, you need to set aside uninterrupted time for when you are at your best for studying and take responsibility for what you learn and accomplish throughout the course.

Try to make up a weekly time plan and learn to follow it. Schedule your study throughout the week so that you don't have to finish all assignments in one day (e.g., try to complete Task A by Thursday and Task B by Monday). An ideal combination would be one to two learning tasks per day.

You might consider the following as a weekly routine for your study:

  • Check for course updates from your instructor in the News section located on the course home page
  • Review the Schedule for assignment due dates and other information
  • Consult the Assignments page for requirements
  • Work though the Unit section assigned for the week
  • Bookmark where you are in the course when you leave so that you can return to that place from the Bookmarks widget located on the course home page
  • Visit Discussions area and participate by asking questions, making comments, or offering support to your classmates

These are just a few tips that you might find helpful to succeed in your online course. Everyone has different learning styles and preferences, so it's important to apply those that best fit your situation.