Now that you have everything set up, let’s talk about some ways to be successful in your online course.

Time Management

What do you think is the biggest challenge for students taking online courses?


While this is a common problem for all college students, it is particularly difficult for students in online courses. Because a student taking a course online doesn’t have to physically attend a class, it is easy to put off the work that is required to keep up.

Below are some things you can do to keep up with your online course and not fall behind.


One of the most important things you can do is “Attend” your online course by scheduling a regular time for it. Treat your online course like an on-campus course that you have to be present for at a specific time each week. Schedule this time and stick to it!

Student at Computer
Schedule a specific time each week/day
to “Attend” your class

For example, in a regular semester*, make your course a M/W/F course and log in at 3:30 PM each day. Look for new announcements, read & reply to student discussion posts and make notes on upcoming assignments. Make sure you’re keeping up with your assigned readings and reviewing the course materials posted by the instructor (read introductions, watch lectures/videos, visit websites, etc.). By making your online course part of your regular academic schedule, you are less likely to procrastinate, miss assignments, or feel rushed.

*Plan to log in DAILY for summer and intersession courses.


Be realistic about how much time you need to devote to each of your classes. Allow ample time for all of your coursework. In a regular length semester, courses require at least 3 hours each week per credit hour. What does this mean?

For a 3 Credit Course you can expect to spend at least this amount of time per week:

16 Week Semester

9+ hours/week

8 Week Semester

18+ hours/week

4 Week Semester

36+ hours/week


Create and keep a calendar for your course work. Your instructor will provide a schedule of due dates for assignments; record these deadlines on your calendar.


Inevitably an emergency, a computer glitch, or some other kind of problem that keeps you from getting your work in on time will occur.

What can you do?

Google Drive is a great way to backup your work
  • Stay ahead. Turn things in before they are due.
  • Back up your work so that nothing gets lost! It is a terrible feeling to complete an assignment, only to have to do it again because you didn’t back it up! A good way to back up assignments is to use a cloud service such as: Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

Effective Communication

Communicating effectively is extremely important to doing well in your online course. Keep in mind that class communications are more formal than texting or conversing with your friends. When emailing your instructor or another student:

  • State the class and section in which you are enrolled.
  • Be sure to respectfully address your course instructor – check your syllabus for the way they refer to themselves.
  • Use appropriate language, spelling, and grammar (do not use texting short cuts).
  • Communicate in a respectful manner.

Software and Equipment


You may need specific software or apps in order to complete a variety of assignments. These may include:

  • Word Processing
  • PowerPoint/Slide Presentations
  • PDF Viewers
  • Video Presentations

Below are several apps for creating and submitting assignments:


Some courses may assign video presentations or require you to participate in video conferences (such as Zoom). If this is the case, you may need a webcam or microphone to complete your course. The course syllabus should have this information listed for you.


Discussions will likely be a large part of your online course. Online discussions provide an opportunity to engage with the other students in your class and your instructor. There are a few things to keep in mind as you participate in discussions:

  • Always proofread before submitting your contribution. Many instructors deduct points for misspellings, grammatical errors, and poor writing. Prepare your discussion response in Word, Google Docs, etc. and then copy it into Canvas.
  • The written word can easily be misconstrued; provide sufficient detail to communicate your meaning and choose your language carefully.
  • Make use of the discussion board tools to enhance your posts with images, video, or links to outside resources.
  • Learn your fellow students’ names and use them. Not only does this help appropriately direct your comments, but it brings an added dimension of camaraderie to the discussion.

Please note: Many professors set up the discussion boards so that you cannot see other students’ comments until you post your own – don’t be surprised if it looks like no one else has posted initially.

How do I reply to a discussion as a student?
How do I embed an image in a discussion reply as a student?
How do I embed iFrame videos using the Rich Content Editor as an instructor or student?

Submitting Assignments

Paper airplanes and woman blocking wrong file types
Use PDFs and Word Docs for assignment
submissions, unless otherwise indicated

Submitting assignments in Canvas is easy. Click on the Assignments tool in the left navigation and then locate your assignment from the list. If the class you are taking does not have a link to Assignments in the main navigation click the Modules page and locate a link to your assignment there.

All assignments should be submitted as PDF or Word docs, unless requested otherwise. If you are not using Microsoft Word to write your papers, you can still save pages as .doc or .pdf.

How to submit an online assignment

Feedback and Grades

Student asking How did I get a D
Check your assignment feedback to learn more about what you did right and how you can improve.

You can locate your grades by clicking on the “Grades” tool in the left navigation. By clicking on the assignment title in Grades you can access any feedback your instructor left including the following:

  • Written comments
  • Annotated feedback (click “View Feedback”)
  • Assignment rubric (click “Show Rubric”)
  • Turnitin Similarity Score

Review the guides below to make sure you understand how to locate feedback on your assignments so that you don’t miss out on your instructor’s input!

View Assignment Comments
View Annotated Assignment Feedback (from SpeedGrader)
Viewing an Assignment Rubric and Results
Viewing your Turnitin (plagiarism detection) score


Header Image by sasint on Pixabay

Student Image by janeb13 on Pixabay 

Image of man adapted from vector created by freepik –

Girl at computer adapted from vector created by pikisuperstar –