Higher Education

4 Tips for Succeeding in Online Classes

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Distance learning has revolutionized higher education.

Thanks to technological advances, students from a variety of walks of life, faced with a diverse set of responsibilities, living all over the world, are able to pursue their education with the aid of a laptop and a Wi-Fi signal.

Online education allows widespread empowerment through education; however, distance learning presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities to even the studious of students.

I enrolled in my first online course in 2013. Originally skeptical of the whole online classroom environment and concerned with my incredibly elementary tech skills, I wasn’t sure if an online program was the right fit for me. One Master’s degree, half a dozen certificates, and a low residency doctoral program underway, and I’m a huge fan of the online learning platform.

Here are four tips for succeeding in online classes:

Organization is Key to Online Education

Distance learning requires students to maintain a higher degree of organization than typically required of traditional classrooms, as online students lack the face to face instructor interaction and in-class reminders of course deadlines and expectations. Online students can help minimize due date confusion and prevent overwhelm by keeping and sticking to a detailed calendar of assignment dates and study plans. As an online course instructor, I recommend online students sit down during the first week of class, review the syllabus and course schedule, develop a detailed course management plan, and add all dates to their phone’s calendar app or favorite scheduling instrument.

Students Can Identify Their Learning Style

Online education often requires a greater degree of student directed learning. Most distance learners cannot expect online instructors to spoon feed them the material through repetitive lectures and one-on-one sessions; instead, online students must utilize course resources like textbooks and videos in ways that optimize their retention levels. Understanding how one learns best by identifying one’ learning style(s) can offer great insight when trying to decide what materials will best help one grasp new material. To determine your learning style, consider taking an online assessment.

Connect With Online Classmates

While the online classroom seemingly removes much of the student-to-student interaction often associated with the traditional classroom experience, connecting with one’s classmates can greatly optimize one’s learning experience. Establishing virtual study groups through forums, e-mail, or Slack channels can be a great resource for students. Also, connecting with classmates via social networking channels, such as LinkedIn, can be a wonderful way to grow one’s network and access job leads post-graduation.

Invest in Extracurriculars

Online students are often tasked with identifying and securing extracurricular activities that can help them advance their career on their own, without the benefits of an accessible on campus career center. Investing in industry relevant activities, such as work-study, internships, and other extracurriculars that enhance one’s learning can be a great way to maximize one’s educational experience. Reach out to program advisors, related non-profit organizations, and area industry leaders and express interest in pursuing additional opportunities that can complement your online education. Be sure to check out websites such as www.flexjobs.com , www.internships.com , and www.wayup.com to find opportunities.


Distance learning provides a wealth of opportunities, along with platform-specific challenges, to the modern higher education student. By prioritizing organization, maximizing one’s learning style, connecting with classmates, and pursuing additional extracurricular activities, today’s online student can get the most out of their career development. Knowledge is power, and online education empowers students to overcome would-be-barriers to their educational dreams.


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