5 Tips for Success as an Online Learner

Originally posted by Continuing and Professional Education on April 13, 2020

Like many of us, you may be endeavoring to use this shelter-in-place time in productive ways. Maybe you organized your home Marie Kondo style (or maybe just a closet). If you’re looking for other ways to stay productive while staying at home, then now may be the perfect time to upskill, reskill—or pivot—in your career.

UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education strives to provide convenient, flexible, high-quality online courses and programs to help you achieve your professional goals…or at least give you something new to learn. If you’ve never taken an online course before, here are five tips to help prepare you for success as an online learner.

1. Online courses are “real” courses.” Watch all lectures and actively participate.

As a result of the stay-at-home order, several of our courses have moved from a classroom setting to a virtual environment.  Now offered as synchronous “webinar-style” courses, these run on platforms that offer ways to “raise your hand” and they include a chat feature where you can ask questions. Even though your instructors can’t see you face-to-face like in a classroom, they still want to help make sure you understand the material and are actively engaged —to ensure your success in their class and others.

Alternatively, many of our courses and certificate programs have pre-produced curriculum that students access via Canvas, our online learning management system. Through a variety of interactive tools, this platform connects you with your instructor and classmates in an academic online space.

“I was concerned an online format would not allow for enough engagement,” Business Analysis student Marnie Norris said.  But she found the online learning experience to be positive and beneficial. “The classroom and videoconference software were easy to use, which helped me engage with instructors and other students during class and afterward via discussion groups and email.”

2. Practice time management and hold yourself accountable.

Although online courses offer a great deal of flexibility, it’s a good idea to set deadlines and hold yourself to them. Avoid overloading yourself with work. Dedicate the necessary amount of time each day (or each week) to work on your assignments to avoid falling behind or reducing the quality of your work when facing a time crunch. Find a way to keep yourself from procrastinating and hold yourself accountable. Find a way to reward yourself that works for you, individually.

3. Create a study space and eliminate distractions.

Set up a study space in your home somewhere quiet and free of distractions where you know you can dedicate several hours to work. This can be a home office, or just your desk or dining room table. Research shows that you should avoid working from your bedroom or couch. Keep the places where you work and rest separate. Although it may be tempting to put on Netflix in the background or check your social media feeds during study time, eliminating distractions will ensure you get the most out of the course material.  

4. Use online courses as a networking opportunity.

Canvas offers tools to connect with your classmates and get to know them. Your classmates come from a wide variety of backgrounds, experience levels and career goals, and they’re just as willing to network as you are. Getting to know your classmates can often lead to great industry connections by the completion of your course or program.

"The online format was great," said Project Management student Jessica Johnson, "and I made connections with a few students who were going through at the same pace as me."

5. Have kids or pets? Keep them busy and entertained—away from you.

Our own families can be a source of distraction when trying to learn from home, especially during this time when many of us are doing work and school at home alongside our families. While buying some new toys for your dog makes for a few hours of distraction, kids tend to be more complicated. Several publications have posted their advice for working at home with kids around and list numerous educational games, TV shows and other online resources to keep children entertained and keep their brains working—while you have peace of mind as you get work done.

Jumping into online education can be a challenging new experience, but if you have the right mindset and prepare accordingly, you’ll likely find the transition easier than expected.

Want more information?

See our online learning resources page for FAQs, technical requirements and more information on our online learning options.

This article was provided by UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education. Learn more at https://cpe.ucdavis.edu/news/5-tips-success-online-learner