Tips for Success in Online Courses:

What to Do in Your First Week of Online Classes*

1. Buy any required texts. If your online course requires textbooks or other materials, buy them early so you won't fall behind on your assignments. Books can be purchased online at or you can contact the WDT Bookstore at 605-718-2432.

2. Update your computer. Using the week before classes start to make sure your computer can run all the necessary programs will save you from being surprised when you're under a deadline. For more information on suggested downloads and laptop requirements, visit

3. Introduce yourself to the instructor. If you're in an online course with a lot of students, the instructor may never get to know you unless you take the initiative. Use Blackboard communication tools or email your instructor with a brief introduction. This may help when you need additional assistance and maybe even at grade time.

4. Participate. Sometimes it's difficult to jump in and participate in online class discussions, but, don't hesitate. Speaking up early will help you establish yourself as an active member of the course. You will end up with a better grasp of the material and maybe even make a few friends in the process.

5. Trade email addresses with your peers. You can all become a support system for each other. They can help you study, answer your questions, and remind you of any upcoming deadlines. Online courses can be grueling, especially if you're already involved in a career and family activities that make up a large part of your day. Take advantage of any help you can get!

6. Acquaint yourself with the class structure. Each online course has its own structure. Spend a few minutes exploring the course syllabi before jumping into the lessons. Make sure you understand how you can access all of the necessary online class components and take note of any optional components that can be used to help you with your coursework.

7. Record tests and assignments on your calendar. Don't expect your online class professor to give you regular reminders. Many instructors only mention big assignments at the beginning of the online course. As soon as you receive the syllabus, record all of the assignments, tests, essays, and projects on your personal calendar.

8. Establish a regular study time. Figure out how much study time you will need for each course and set a regular schedule. Let your friends and family members know that you'll be unavailable during that time. If you establish this routine early on, you'll be more likely to stick to it.

9. Get a head start on the assigned work. Jumpstart your online course by beginning upcoming assignments and papers during your first week as a student. When the assignment deadlines draw near, you'll feel confident knowing much of the work is already completed. 

10. Determine if you're in over your head. Take a look at the course requirements and your personal schedule to decide if you can really handle the workload. Sometimes distance learning students enroll in online courses and drop out shortly after courses begin because they weren’t prepared for the workload. If you make the determination that a class is not right for you, please contact the Registrar’s Office at 605-718-2415 and they will assist you with the withdrawal process.

Tips for Success in Online Courses:

Ways to Be a Successful Online Student*


1. Embrace the syllabus. The syllabus is your guide to everything about an online class – what assignments are due, how you’ll be graded, and how you can contact the instructor. Don’t just file this paperwork away. Review it early and refer to it often.

2. Become a master of online tools. Become familiar with using multimedia technology and course tools within Blackboard. The new generation of online classes could include interactive features such as forums, video conferencing, message boards, and podcasts. Also, improve your research skills by mastering Google Search, Google Scholar, Google Books, and other popular resources.

3. Create a dedicated place for studying. Since all of your work will be done away from a traditional classroom, it’s essential to create a study spot of your own. Whether you have an entire office or just a desk in your living room, make sure it’s organized with the supplies you need and available for use at any time.

4. Achieve a family and school balance. When learning at home, it’s often difficult to balance assignments with the needs of your partner or children. Anticipate scheduling problems before they arise and come up with a solution that works for everyone.

5. Become a respected discussion participant. Online class chat rooms can be the best place to make connections, share your insights, and stand out in the crowd. However, the seeming informality of a virtual class leads some students to share inappropriate information or be lax with their grammar. Learn how to communicate in chat rooms and take these venues seriously.

6. Stay on schedule. You cannot afford to fall behind in online courses. They are structured the same as on-campus courses and have regular due dates for assignments. It is easy to put off completing assignments when you don’t have to report to a classroom, so make sure to know when assignments are due and meet those deadlines.

7. Know how to ask for help. It is important to build a relationship with instructors and the WDT Help Desk staff. These people can be an invaluable resources when you need help, so make sure to use all the tools the school has to offer.

Technical trouble? Contact the WDT Help Desk at, at 605-394-5355, or stop by their office on the second floor of Lewis & Clark Hall.

Don’t understand the material or have a question on an assignment? Contact your instructor by using the preferred contact method listed in your syllabus.

Feeling overwhelmed? Contact your Student Success Coach to discuss options with both academic and personal issues. For more information on the Student Success Center, go to

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