Tips for Online Students

Below you will find several tips and strategies for becoming a successful online student.

Course Walkthrough

Every course is different, but q walkthrough will show you the basics of how a Canvas course may be laid out, how to navigate a course, and how several of the common tools in Canvas are used. 


There are several technology skills that you may need when taking an online course: 

  1. Download, install, launch, and quit software applications such as Microsoft Word or a web browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, etc.).
  2. Create edit, and save files using Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  3. Receive and send email messages, with and without attachments. 
  4. Operate a web browser, including navigating web pages, clearing a browser's cache, and installing or disabling plugins. 
  5. Update your computer operating system and software applications and adjust preferences, options, and settings as needed. 
  6. Understand basic computer terminology to describe technical issues you may experience with technology. 

Course Workload Expectations

Kent State University courses are organized by units of credit hours. Each credit hour has a value of nominal hours or "in-class time" for the semester, and the expectation is to double that for "out-of-class time" work required for the course. However, for an online course, there is no "out of class time," as an online class encompasses lectures or presentations from your professor, discussions with your fellow students, as well as work you will be doing on your own, such as reading textbook chapters or completing assignments.

So, for an online class, you can think of it as a total number of work hours per credit hour. For a typical 3-credit hour lecture course, you can expect to spend approximately 112.5 hours in the course working on course activities. Thinking that your online class will be less work or take less time than a face-to-face class is incorrect. Below is a breakdown of how many hours you can expect to spend each week in a typical 3-credit online lecture class based on how many weeks the class runs:

Remember: Though the course length may vary (e.g., 7 weeks versus 15 weeks), the workload expectations remain the same. Please take the information below into account when considering enrollment into this or any other KSU online course:

  • 112.5 hours of work / 15 week course = ~7.5 hours of coursework per week.
  • 112.5 hours of work / 8 week course = ~14 hours of coursework per week.
  • 112.5 hours of work / 7 week course = ~16 hours of coursework per week.
  • 112.5 hours of work / 5 week course = ~22.5 hours of coursework per week.

For lab and studio courses there may be different contact hour needs, check with your specific course for expected workload requirements.

Learning and Study Strategies

Whether learning online or in a physical classroom, some techniques and habits can help us become more effective learners. View our videos for more information and research about topics such as attitude, goal setting, time management, etc., to help you develop more efficient study techniques.

Successful online students: 

  1. Possess good writing skills.
  2. Schedule regular time each week to work on the course. 
  3. Work without direct supervision. 
  4. Meet deadlines without constant reminders. 
  5. Take the initiative to contact the instructor and/or seek out help as soon as a problem arises. 

As you work through your online courses, keep the following in mind: 

  • Online Communication Takes Effort
    When non-verbal cues are removed from human interaction (body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice), only words remain to communicate. As a result, in an online course, where there is no (or very little) synchronous face-to-face communication, most communication is through writing. This makes interacting with classmates and the instructor more difficult, even for good writers. It takes more time to communicate ideas, concepts, arguments, etc., than speaking in a traditional classroom setting. 
  • Be prepared to interact with your classmates and instructor 
    Community features are heavily used in online courses. This could be in a discussion forum, a group project, and/or other course activities. You'll need to make time for establishing and maintaining your social presence in this course, as well as becoming an exemplary member of the class community. 
  • Get organized: Online Learning is a "Flexible" Schedule, not an "Easy" Schedule
     An online course saves travel time and time spent in a classroom, not work time. It takes considerable discipline to stay focused and on task in an online course. So, though you have flexibility in scheduling your work, that is, at which points during the week you will "attend" class, online courses have just as rigorous course requirements and assignment/assessment deadlines and due dates as face-to-face courses. It's easy to fall behind without proper time management skills; rely on the course schedule to keep yourself on track. Plan for several hours of online interaction weekly to meet all posting deadlines to the discussion board, wiki, blog, or journal, and time spent interacting with reading materials, audio or video files, and interactive multimedia activities. Block out time in your personal calendar and allow ample time to meet all deadlines. 
  • Create a workspace
    Even though this course is online, you will still need a place to work that supports how you learn, study, and complete graded work. Remember: There is no physical on-campus classroom here. You will have to find or create your own workspace. Is it too loud? Will you be interrupted frequently? Will you have to access this space for several hours at a time regularly? These are things you should bear in mind when selecting a place to work. It also wouldn't hurt to locate a place that would provide free public access to a computer should something happen to yours. 
  • Engage in class when you are fresh, and don't wait until the last minute
    Do not save class interaction until the end of the week or the hour before the posting deadline. Work on discussion board posts and other class activities when you are rested, alert, and ready to spend time on the material, NOT when you are exhausted at the end of a long day of face-to-face classes or work. 
  • Know where to get help before you need it
    Links to help and support resources are provided in your course under the Support subheading in the left sidebar main navigation. Most online courses also contain an open discussion forum where you can post questions to your classmates and course instructor. In addition, make sure you know the course policy on virtual office hours. Because online courses lack regularly scheduled face-to-face interaction, you should be proactive when facing any issues. You will need to identify the issue and determine who to contact or which resource will best assist you in resolving it. This skill can make or break your experience as an online student.