Best Practices for Participating in an Online Class

Engage with Other Students

Interactions with your peers and your instructor are critical to you having a rich, engaging experience in an online course. Many courses include an icebreaker activity to help you get to know your classmates. Especially if your online course lacks this, be sure to go out of your way to introduce yourself to others. These are the folks who you will work with throughout the semester and it pays to build strong relationships! Don’t just say “hi” and retreat into seclusion, though—stay in touch! Networking is not limited to face-to-face classes.

Some students even report that online courses are easier to concentrate in because they are not distracted by other students and classroom activity.

Be a good online citizen by following the rules of netiquette.

Actively Learn

You can’t “lurk” in the back of the room or remain silent in an online class. Identify how your instructor wants you to interact (assignments, discussion boards, chat rooms, or other tools), and then make sure you participate.

Instead of repeating material from the book, relate your assignment to the world around you. Give examples of the topic under discussion to show your understanding. Be careful not just to repeat what another student has already said. Try to take the discussion up a notch without taking it off-track.

The key philosophy in online learning is that you are the one responsible for what you do, or don't, learn. In online courses, instructors don’t just dispense knowledge while you passively sit there. Instead, since the instructor is not present, you have to explore resources and information yourself. Instead of asking yourself what the instructor is going to teach you, ask yourself what you are going to learn.

Submit Good Work

All word-processing programs have spell-checkers. If you are poor at spelling, write your discussion comments and emails in your word processing program, check their spelling, and then cut and paste them into the discussion area or email. Use grammar checking too, and be sure to follow whatever document formats your instructor specifies. (The library offers help in citing sources.)