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Spring 14 Huron

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Online Learning Best Practices for Students


1. Motivation and self-discipline

Students must be motivated and self-disciplined to succeed in an online class environment.

Energy to participate

Getting ahead of the class schedule is one of the ways that helps student students maintain the energy to participate in their class. Motivation can be difficult to find when online students have additional time commitments from work and personal lives. Falling behind adds unnecessary stressors to the experience, often draining motivation. Getting ahead of the schedule will reduce anxiety and stress and, thereby, lead to a better learning experience for the online student.


Maintain high involvement

Remaining involved in the online class helps students stay motivated. Contributing ideas and comments via online conferencing is an important way to stay involved. Interacting with fellow students not only adds to the learning experience, but also eliminates feelings of educational disconnect and seclusion.



The flexibility of online learning requires student to be more independent and disciplined with their approach to learning, studying, and completing assignments. Online students must train themselves to show control and independence when it comes to studying and completing assignments. Students are responsible to manage their time and meet the deadlines provided by the instructors. Learning to avoid procrastination by incorporating learning into everyday routine builds the necessary Independence required for successful online learning.


2. Active Participation

Online students should pursue and take advantage of the variety of participation opportunities such as resources, instructors, and peers



Students should read and watch all resources the instructor has provided whether they are mentioned in discussion board post or within the course materials.


Instructor engagement

Johnson and Aragon (2003) support students seeking out instructors to ask questions or get feedback. If there is difficulty understanding assignments, it is likely another student may have the same problems. One should also contact their professor if they are having technical problems or something is not working as expected.  Being proactive with questions can give an instructor adequate time to respond before the assignment is due. Students and instructors may have different availability.


It is also important for an online learner to garner instructor feedback, which helps strengthen the reflective learning process. Students who reexamine and revise ideas that occur during learning via instructor feedback gain much more meaningful learning experiences and knowledge transfer. This is because a student’s ideas, understandings and experiences are being reviewed and challenged, which can lead to a transformation in the student’s values, strategies and assumptions.


Peer to peer engagement

Additionally, online students should strive to help themselves and fellow students by actively involving oneself in peer to peer engagement (Johnson & Aragon, 2003, p.39) . This helps bring clarity to areas of discussion and point out ideas in need of further development. Students should not feel intimidated by other students, since online learning provides a degree of anonymity. And instead of having to respond quickly like in a typical classroom, online students have the luxury of composing a response before posting comment to the online classroom.



As an online student is it important to be courteous and professional to your instructor and classmates. 70% of face-to-face communication is nonverbal (Gazor, Hossein, 2012, page 3) and lost when interacting online. It is far too easy to forget that you are dealing with real people. Online students have to watch what they say to make sure the true meaning is coming across. Students must also treat classmates as they wish to be treated - avoid confrontational tone or words.


3. Comfort with technology

Online students must have reliable computer and internet access with knowledge of a variety of computer programs


Knowledge of computers and software

Online students must be computer savvy to attend online classes.Online students will need to be able to download and install software programs as well as troubleshoot when something does not work as expected. Online students should have a variety of skills including; typing, searching the Internet, emailing, chatting, knowledge of using attachments, word processing and installing new software. Find out early what software, platforms or technical requirements you may need for class and start immediately becoming familiar with them.


Students need to make sure to spend an adequate amount of time navigating around the online classroom to become familiar with how to find assignments, participate in class and submit assignments. By exploring the different links, icons and buttons you may discover additional resources to help you succeed with online learning.


Internet access

According to a Pearson Foundation report over 70 percent of college students believe that having a high speed internet connection is important to succeed at college. There is a need to be able to have access to Advisors and/or relationships with Professors. Additionally, online students are expected to have access to a reliable internet connection to remain in compliance with their coursework. They need to be able to research, participate in ongoing discussions, turn in assignments, and collaborate with teammates to remain on task if they want to succeed.


4. Organization

It is important for online students to be organized.



Even though classes are taken online, students still need a place to work on their class assignments. A work area should be consistent and free of outside distractions. Online students often have other commitments, such as a family, and maintaining a work area free of distractions will enable students to maximize their learning and ensure a timely completion of tasks.



Online students should carve out time in their days or weeks to read or complete assignments. Without the forced schedule of attending an in-person class, it’s often easier to forget about requirements and deadlines.Online students are on a more rigorous time consuming pace than a traditional course, and therefore scheduling and having an agenda is a major asset even before a class begins.


5. Contextual Learning

Online students should apply and integrate what they learn in classes into their professional life

Real life examples

Creating context is essential for learning because it provides opportunity to transfer learned concepts into reality - actual learning experiences. Johnson and Aragon (2003) suggest 3 core learning activities that reiterate classroom knowledge: virtual learning teams, simulating reality by using appropriate case studies, and collaborative projects with schools, businesses or other organizations.  For the online student, choosing courses that incorporate these elements into their studies would reinforce classroom concepts.

Additionally, it would require the learner to constantly and consistently evaluate how the course knowledge applies to real-world situations and develop constructs around when to apply certain course knowledge.






"Best Practices for Online Learners". (n.d.). Yavapai College. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from https://www.yc.edu/v5content/teaching-and-elearning-support/students/best-practices.htm 


Curtis, David. D. (2001, February) Exploring Collaborative Online Learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(1), 21-34. Retrieved from: http://wikieducator.org/images/    6/60/ALN_Collaborative_Learning.pdf


de Vise, D. (2011, February 9). Survey: Community college students prize Internet access over teachers. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2014, fromhttp://voices.washingtonpost.com/college-inc/2011/02/community_college_students_hav.html 


Erstad, W. (2013, November 13) 5 Simple Tips for Online Classes. Rasmussen College. Retrieved from http://www.rasmussen.edu/student-life/blogs/online-learning/five-simple-tips-online-classes/


Gazor, Hossein (2012). A Literature Review on Challenges of Virtual Team's Leadership. Department of Management and Accounting, Allameh Tabatab'ee University, Tehran, Iran, page 3 


"Illinois Online Network: Educational Resources". (n.d.). Illinois Online Network: Educational Resources. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/tips.asp 


Johnson, S. R. (2003). An instructional strategy framework for online learning environments. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (100), 31-43. 


Keengwe, J., & Kidd, T. T. (2010). Towards Best Practices in Online Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching , 6(2). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no2/keengwe_0610.htm


Lytle, R. (2013, January 14). 5 Tips to Succeed in an Online Course. US News. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/01/14/5-tips-to-succeed-in-an-online-course 


Mittempergher, M. (n.d.). Tips for Online Learning. Concordia University. Retrieved April 17, 2014, from http://fran-lang.vaniercollege.qc.ca/hsc-11/secure/pdfs/Online_students.pdf



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Frances Lemer

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Miriam Sanders



Comments (1)

Danny Mittleman said

at 4:16 pm on Jun 14, 2014

Only two of five of your sections provided citations back to your resources. If you understood to do this in two places, why didn't you understand to do it in the other three? Section two is very well done. But the lack of proper citation holds back your grade. B+

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