Tips for Online Students

Providing information regarding basic technological skills you need to participate in an online course, expected course workload, and strategies for becoming a successful online student.

Computer/Technology skills

Online students are expected to possess a basic understanding of how to use and navigate a computer. For particular tasks that require setting up, configuring, or troubleshooting technology, support resources are available. For technology support, please look through the Technology Requirements for online courses, visit the KSU Helpdesk 24/7, and Blackboard Tutorials links in the left navigation sidebar of your Blackboard Learn course.

To be a successful online student, you should be able to:

  1. Download, install, launch, and quit applications such as Microsoft Word or a web browser.
  2. Create, edit, and save files using word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software applications.
  3. Configure and use an email client to retrieve, view, create, and send email messages including messages with 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 computer software applications.
  6. Access and change computer operating system settings as well as computer software application preferences, options, and settings.
  7. Understand basic computer terminology in order to describe technical issues you may experience with technology.

Course workload

Kent State University courses are organized by units of credit hours. Each credit hour equals 15 hours of "in class time" for the semester, and 30 hours of "out of class time". 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 45 hours of work total per credit hour. For a typical 3-credit hour course, that means you can expect to spend approximately 135 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 class, based on how many weeks the class runs:

Remember: Though the length of a course may vary (e.g. 7 weeks versus 15 weeks), the workload expectations remain the same. Scheduling adequate time for course work is YOUR responsibility. Please take the information below into account when considering enrollment into this or any other KSU online course:

  • 135 hours of work / 15 week course = approximately 9 hours of course work per week.
  • 135 hours of work / 8 week course = approximately 17 hours of course work per week.
  • 135 hours of work / 7 week course = approximately 19 hours of course work per week.
  • 135 hours of work / 5 week course = approximately 27 hours of course work per week.

Effective learning strategies

Whether learning online or in a physical classroom, there are techniques and habits that can help us become more effective learners. View our videos that introduce some of the research about learning to help students develop more efficient study techniques.

Study strategies

Many students assume that because a course is web-based that it will require less time and effort than a face-to-face course would.  Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, because the class does not meet physically, and therefore lacks the immediacy of face-to-face communication, everyone must work harder to establish the sense of learning community, and to stay focused and on task.

Successful online students:

    1. Possess good writing skills
    2. Schedule regular time each week to work in 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 this course, 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, in which there is no (or very little) synchronous face to face communication, the majority of communication is through writing. Not only does this make interacting with classmates and the instructor more difficult, even for good writers, but 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 you 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 every week to meet all posting deadlines to the discussion board, wiki, blog or journal in addition to 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 work space
    • Even though this course is online, you will still need a place to work that supports the way 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 work space. Is it too loud? Will you be interrupted frequently? Will you have to access this space for several hours at a time on a regular basis? 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.
  • Attend 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 discussions forum where you can post questions to your classmates and course instructor. In addition, make sure you are aware of the course policy on virtual office hours. Because online courses lack regularly scheduled face-to-face interaction, you must be proactive when confronted with any issues. You must not only identify the issue, but also 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.