• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions! Dokkio, a new product from the PBworks team, integrates and organizes your Drive, Dropbox, Box, Slack and Gmail files. Sign up for free.


Spring 14 Superior

Page history last edited by andrew.holloway@untropy.net 5 years, 11 months ago Saved with comment

Online Learning Best Practices for Students


Establish clear expectations for communication and follow them 


Few things are as frustrating as trying to work with people whose expectations for communication are different from one’s own. Unproductive meetings, unbalanced workloads, and hurt feelings can all result when clear expectations for communication are not established and followed. In contrast, working with a group that is in complete harmony can be a joy, but it requires planning and a little work.


An online learner should jump on the opportunity to define expectations for communication when assigned with classmates to a group project. Learner-to-learner interaction is a critical part of online learning[8]. If opportunities for interaction are stymied by conflicting schedules and competing technological tools, for example, that interaction cannot happen. Therefore, coming to an agreement on times for and methods of communication early on is important. Deviating from expectations agreed to by a group should be done in advance, for good reason, and with the majority’s consent. 


Students do best by communicating with everyone that is involved in their education, however--not just other students. Dudding and Drulia[1] found that providing students with the tools and expectations for consistent student-faculty communication improved student satisfaction. Students should make it known to faculty, for example, if feedback on coursework is late, inconsistent, or unhelpful, as “[t]he lack of feedback could be an anxiety-provoking component that limits students’ possibilities of success in online learning”[8].


By developing and following clear and consistent norms for communication, online learners can make the most of the virtual classroom. Students should establish expectations thoroughly and early to ensure that everyone’s time and effort is respected.



Improve your reading speed and comprehension


Online students will encounter major amounts of reading required for their courses. Lots and lots of reading! Instead of simply giving lectures online, teachers post most of the coursework online, including textbooks. If you are not used to reading lots of information on a digital screen, it can take some getting used to. Many learners discover that reading digital text online is often slower and more difficult than reading an actual book[12]. And additional research shows that reading on a screen “is more physically and mentally taxing than reading on paper” [3]


Studies have also revealed that learners reading PDF files have “a more difficult time finding particular information when referencing the texts”[3]. When reading PDFs on a screen the learner can only see a portion of the material at one time and must click on pages back and forth to look for and glean information. Learners reading the same text on paper can see the entire work in front displayed and can quickly move back and forth between the pages.


So, time invested in increasing reading speed and comprehension in the beginning will equate to saved time down the line. Time is too valuable to waste, especially when taking exams. The more time needed to get through the instructions, read the passages, and understand the questions, the less time there is to complete the test!



Stay socially engaged with your instructor and classmates


Students can easily promote interpersonal distance between themselves and instructors or classmates when engaged in online learning. It is a tempting to slip into a habit of just fetching readings and completing coursework as dictated by dates on a syllabus. These things are important, but by doing them in addition to building social relationships with others, online students give themselves the best chance of finishing each class edified and satisfied. 


This is actually true both offline and online--students, when presented with coursework that fosters cooperative work blended with evaluations of individual accountability, achieve higher educational outcomes than those who work alone[9]. This performance boost is also true in some work that one would traditionally think of as individual. How much of a presence a student has in a ‘community’ really does matter. Picciano, for example, found that “student perception of social presence demonstrates a strong positive and statistically significant relationship to performance on [an example] written assignment”[5].


Grades are not, however, the only important thing. Student satisfaction and morale affect not only performance as they work through their coursework, but in their enthusiasm to pursue online educational resources in the future. In addition to a probable link between social engagement and satisfaction with online instructors, Richardson & Swan found “a relationship between social presence and perceived learning” [6]. Students who learn collaboratively with their instructors and classmates truly feel like they are getting more from their time than those who do not.


Online students should take advantage of whatever tools are at their disposal to maintain a strong presence in their courses. Whether these be discussion forums, chat rooms, distribution lists, teleconferences, or video chats, they are important in performing well while having a satisfying experience.



Practice good time management skills


In online learning, the learner is often studying and completing assignments within a loose timeframe.  This can lead to procrastination and losing sight of the overall objectives and assignments for the class.


There are a few tactics like checklists and schedules that students can take in order to manage their time[2]. This will allow the learner to stay organized as they acquire knowledge throughout the class. But on a higher level, there are some key elements that a student will need to do in order to stay organized and learning.


First, the student will need to make a plan.  S/he will need to make a schedule of when each assignment is due and what needs to be completed beforehand in order to complete the assignment[7]. Second, the student should check in with the class on a daily bases to make sure there were not any changes or updates that would affect their schedule[7]. Third, keep in mind the items that are coming up.  And, finally, talk to the instructor if there are any questions or ambiguous information that may cause confusion down the road.


Overall, it is a best practice to practice good time management skills with any online learning class.  It is easy to procrastinate, but if these tactics are kept in mind, the class will go smoothly.



Get comfortable with the technology used in the online learning course


As a student in an online learning class, using technology is a requirement. It is something that cannot and should not be avoided. In fact, the“[...] use of technology as a supplement to traditional teaching methods […] is proving to boost students’ productivity and  even increase graduation rates”[11].


Before starting a class, however, the student should become familiar with the tools they will be working with throughout the course. These tools could be Blackboard, Email, Google Drive, or an other number of learning management systems available. Keeping the learners attention on the subject matter versus figuring out how to work the different systems can increase the learners engagement and ultimately the about of knowledge they retain.


Learners should keep in mind that technical problems will almost always occur. There are many things learners and teachers can do about these problems. “Learners can help ease their own stress [from technological problems] by recognizing that problems can occur and making back-up plans and backup copies to help facilitate their work”[4]. From an instructor's point of view, “it is important to minimize the issues as much as possible from the beginning of the learning experience”[4].


Overall, it is a best practice to become comfortable with the online learning class’s technology before starting the class, but still keep in mind that problems will occur.  So, remember to backup your documents and keep extra copies to negate any lost work.





1. Dudding, C., & Drulia, T. (Spring, 2013). Best Practices in an Online Master’s Degree Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 40, 59-67.


2. How to Be a Good Online Learner. (2012). Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://www.valrc.org/tutorials/onlinelearner/organization.htm


3. Jabr, Ferris. (2013) The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens. Scientific American Global RSS.  April 25, 2014, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/.


4. Koh, M. H. (2004). Improving online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics. The Internet and Higher Education, 7, 59-70.


5. Picciano, A. G. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence, and performance in an online course. Journal of Asynchronous learning networks, 6(1), 21-40.


6. Richardson, J. & Swan, K. (2001). An examination of social presence in online learning: students' perceived learning and satisfaction. Seattle, WA: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.


7. Sheehy, K. (2013, January 13). Time Management Tips for Online Students. US News. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2012/01/13/4-time-management-tips-for-online-students  


8. Singleton, J., Bowser, A., Hux, A., & Neal, G. (2013). Managing Large-Scale Online Graduate Programs. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 15(1). Retrieved April 25, 2014, from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring161/singleton_bowser_hux_neal.html


9. Slavin, R. E. (1983). When does cooperative learning increase student achievement?. Psychological bulletin, 94(3), 429.


10. Speed Reading: Learning to Read More Efficiently. (2014). Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://www.mindtools.com/speedrd.html.


11. University of California, Berkeley - UC Berkeley NewsCenter. (2014, March 11). Online-learning summit explores technology’s role in higher ed. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/


12. University of West Florida. (2014). Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://onlinecampus.uwf.edu/class/learning.cfm.


Team Members

Max Bridges
Kaycee Collins
Wynn Daniels
Andrew Holloway

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.