Guide to Success in Online Courses


As you are you considering taking some or all of your courses online,  make sure you’re ready to succeed. Online learning can sound so wonderful that some students start with an unrealistic vision. In reality, online courses require just as much, if not more, time and energy as traditional classroom courses. It also requires specific computer skills and learning strategies in order to succeed.

To see if you’re ready to succeed, see how many of the following skills you have:

1. Persistence

Students who succeed are those who are willing to tolerate technical problems, seek help when needed, work hard everyday on every class, and prevail through challenges. Online learning requires independence, internal motivation, responsibility, and a certain level of maturity.

2. Effective Time-Management Skills

The flexibility of online learning can be a drawback to students who procrastinate, are unable to commit to a study schedule, or are unable to complete assignments without daily reminders from the instructor.

Here are some effective time-management tips:

Tip 1: Read your course calendar provided in your instructor’s syllabus – If you know the due dates, you will be able to spread out your coursework, so you can complete tasks in a timely manner.

Tip 2: Make schedules  – Make weekly assignment sheets and check them off as you complete them. You may consider purchasing a planner.

Tip 3: Stay organized  – If you have separate binders, notebooks, and folders, you will be able to locate assignments easier. Also, avoid clutter.

Tip 4: Stay healthy – Practicing regular exercise keeps energy levels up, resulting in a more engaged mind. Getting adequate sleep and eating healthy also helps.

3. Effective and Appropriate Communication Skills

Use the tools provided by the university to communicate with your instructors. These might include e-mail, discussion boards, chat room office hours, by cellphones, and even text messaging. Instructors want to help you to succeed in your classes.

Use appropriate style and language for school. You should write in full, grammatically correct sentences with a respectful tone.

Netiquette covers not only rules of behavior during discussions, but also guidelines such as the following:

  • Include a subject line. Give a descriptive phrase pertaining to your message (not just “Hi!”)
  • Avoid sarcasm. People who do not know you may misinterpret your meaning.
  • Acknowledge and return messages promptly. Check your student email and course messages for important information sent to you from your instructors.
  • Use appropriate language. Avoid coarse, rough, or rude language. Observe good grammar and spelling.
  • Use appropriate intensifiers to help convey meaning. Avoid “flaming” (online screaming) or sentences typed in all caps. Use asterisks surrounding words to indicate emphasis.
  • Any derogatory or inappropriate comments regarding race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation are unacceptable and subject to disciplinary action.

4. A Good Study Environment

Get some peace and quiet away from distractions from things such as television, family, or roommates.

Avoid games. Consider uninstalling any computer games to avoid temptation.

Turn of your cellphone. Let family and friends know the hours you will be unavailable.

Consider ergonomics. Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, screen so you are comfortable. Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor. Do not bend your wrists while typing.

Set up good lighting. Lighting in the room should be at least as bright as the computer screen to avoid eye strain.

5. Ability to Uphold Academic Integrity

Students enrolled at the Southern Arkansas University are expected to uphold standards of academic integrity. Any act of dishonesty in academic work constitutes academic misconduct and is subject to disciplinary action. Acts of dishonesty include, but are not limited to, plagiarism and cheating.

  • Cheating is an act of dishonesty with the intention of obtaining and/or using information in a fraudulent manner. Students must not permit others to complete course assignments and then submit these assignments as their own work. Students must not use any information (class notes, textbook, outlines) that the instructor has not authorized to complete examinations. Only the student enrolled in the course can take examinations.
  • Plagiarism is the act of taking and/or using the ideas, work, and/or writings of another person as one’s own. Students must not use material from other sources without clear and specific acknowledgement of the source. Students must conduct their own research and write their own projects. They cannot purchase papers, projects, and all other class assignments from individuals or companies.

The instructor will set and impose the penalties upon students who have engaged in academic misconduct. An expanded description of the university policy on academic integrity as well as penalties can be found in the Undergraduate Catalog. Students are urged to review this policy.


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