Are you or will you be one of the millions of college students taking at least one online course?

I've learned that being an online student can be very different from being a traditional student. Taking an online course often comes with a set of unique challenges including....

  • staying motivated

  • social isolation

  • shortcomings in digital literacy

    A student taking an online class. They look frustrated and tired. Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

    It's very important to understand that being an online student requires a different kind of focus, patience, and dedication.

1. Be Active and Organized to Stay Motivated

When I was new to taking online courses, I often felt uninspired and unmotivated when it came to my responsibilities as an online student.

A bald man with a beard is clapping his hands and saying I've learned that actively using certain strategies in an organized way can help to keep you motivated.

Flaticon Icon Plan your schedule & stick to it

Create a detailed schedule & plan that includes:

  • all your classes, study time, breaks & homework assignments

  • work schedule, family responsibilities & any socializing or special events

Flaticon Icon Take responsibility for your learning

Use self-directed learning to empower yourself:

  • learn what method(s) helps you to study online effectively

  • find background info on course topics & evaluate your progress & achievements

Flaticon Icon Set realistic course goals

Set realistic but challenging goals that include:

  • short-term goals so you're aware of what's next

  • long-term goals to keep the big picture and your ultimate goal in mind

Flaticon Icon Maintain your health & well-being

You'll feel stressed at times, so make taking care of yourself a priority:

  • look after your mental health & learn to manage your stress levels

  • keep physically fit with regular exercise that meets your needs


Which of the following examples would help a student taking online classes stay motivated?

2. Be Actively Social Online

Initially, as an online student, I felt almost completely disconnected from my classmates, which made me feel there was no sense of community in the class.

A man is peaking from out of the trunk of a car with text at the bottom saying

I've learned that by including social interaction in your online learning, you can increase your engagement and motivation levels, and improve your overall academic performance.

Flaticon Icon Engage with your online classmates

  • introduce yourself & make friends with your classmates in your virtual school

  • use social media or your school's learning management system to connect with classmates

Flaticon Icon Participate in discussion forums

  • actively participate in class discussion platforms to get to know your classmates

  • initiate topics and respond effectively to discussion posts to produce genuine responses

Flaticon Icon Build relationships with instructors

  • establish solid relationships with your online instructors to guide you through the course's learning process

  • use their virtual office hours to meet & build a solid connection

Flaticon Icon Form a study group

  • establish a study group for online learning to connect with classmates

  • start your group with just 1 classmate, build from there & keep it informal with scheduled time slots

3. Become Digitally Literate

I quickly realized that there's a steep learning curve to understanding all the software programs, apps, and tools you'll need as an online student.

A person is sitting in front of 17 monitors typing on a keyboard with their right hand. While your school might provide some training and orientation for the necessary learning technology, understand that it's up to you to learn how to use it effectively to meet your academic responsibilities.

Flaticon Icon Learn basic technology skills

  • become familiar with common word processing & presentation programs

  • practice using video editing tools

  • learn how to use productivity apps

Flaticon Icon Get a reliable internet Wi-Fi connection

  • make a list of alternative places with an accessible & stable internet connection

  • learn the minimum internet speed requirements, usually 1.5 Mbps

Flaticon Icon Get help from online technical support

  • familiarize yourself with the school's online technical support

  • contact course instructors if you encounter problems accessing course materials

Flaticon Icon Check the technology requirements in the syllabus

  • read the course syllabus for the correct technology before you begin the course

  • check whether you're eligible for student discounts for computer purchases


What is an example of working towards becoming digitally literate? Select all that apply.

Take Action

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Learn from my personal experience taking courses online and take charge of your learning!


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