Online classes provide terrific opportunities for college students around the world. They’re easy to work around a busy schedule, no commuting, and you don’t even have to live in or relocate to a college town. Both with their own unique merits, online courses and in-person courses require slightly different approaches. Share our top tips for succeeding in an online course with your students.

Prepare your work space

If you’re fortunate to have a home office area for you to work in, great! Make sure your space is clean and free of distractions. If you’re content setting up shop at the table or other surface at home, make sure it’s quiet and clutter free so you can focus on your work. Noisy household? Pack up your computer and head outside to find some alternatives, such as the public library, a coffee shop, or a bookstore.

For more tips on setting up the perfect study and work space, visit CengageBrain’s blog post, “Study tips for college students: How to find or create the perfect study space.


Be sure to review all recorded lectures provided to you. As with traditional college courses, most online instructors consider information covered only in lecture to be fair game for exam questions. And don’t skip over the “suggested reading” or non-graded assignments. Consider these a leg up in the course and a chance to gain a better understanding.

For many online classes, a primary communication element is the discussion board. Your instructor may give you weekly discussion board prompts, or they may simply require you to introduce yourself. Either way, its a good idea to keep up with all the discussion topics, asking questions whenever you have them and providing feedback to your classmates’ posts. This is a great way to get to know your instructor and classmates.

Budget your time

Online classes offer a great deal of flexibility to work around your busy schedule, but they still require you to practice effective time management. Without a constant schedule of class times each week, it can be very easy to let things pile up or fall behind. Schedule a time throughout the week to complete readings,  assignments, and tasks so it’s not all left to the due date. It’s also a bad idea to wait until the last minute in case you experience technical difficulties.

For more tips on improving your time management skills, check out our recent post, “Effective Time Management: An Important Study Skill.”

What other suggestions do you have to excelling in online courses? Share your ideas below.