College of Health, Education and Human Development

Guidelines for Success in Online Classes

Collaborative Learning

Traditionally, teaching and learning in our culture have occurred in a classroom with the teacher at the front of the room and the students diligently trying to record every word and salient point to be assimilated and reiterated during an evaluation. In an online course, the dynamics have shifted to a collaborative teaching and learning environment. The teacher is more of a guide to learning resources than a lecturer. The student has more responsibility for reading and interacting with content material, the teacher, and the other students in the class.

To be successful in a collaborative learning environment you need to be an active participant in the process.

  • Take responsibility for your learning and listen carefully
  • Read all of the assigned materials before any group activities
  • Explore external resources on the assigned topics
  • Actively participate in the opportunities for interaction in discussion forums, chat rooms, synchronous meetings, and email
  • Stay engaged throughout the course, ask questions if you do not understand, seek clarification if process and procedures are confusing, and ask for help if the technology is not working
  • Expect feedback on your performance in a timely manner
  • Provide constructive feedback to your classmates as appropriate
  • Share any relevant professional experiences with your classmates
  • Apply your new knowledge to your own environment
  • Be flexible, adaptable, and patient with technology challenges, glitches, and failures
  • Develop an active sense of humor and have fun

Time Management

A set of well developed time management skills may be the most important factor in succeeding in an online course. You need to organize and plan ahead to be able to allocate sufficient time to access course materials, participate in online classes and discussion boards, and complete all of the assignments.

  • Plan to spend approximately two to three hours per week per credit hour in a traditional semester format; Accelerated courses and summer courses require more weekly time because of the shortened schedule.
  • Check the Blackboard course space frequently (at least two or three times a week; perhaps daily) for new announcements, assignment modifications, due dates/times, discussion board interactions, and new course materials and web resources
  • Schedule study and interaction time on your calendar – it is easy to procrastinate and to be pulled to other responsibilities if you don’t assign yourself time for the coursework


Online courses use a variety of constantly evolving technology tools to facilitate teacher/student and student/student interactions. This is still a new field and glitches, delays, and malfunctions are inevitable.

  • Know the minimum hardware, software, and skills requirements for the course before you register
  • Be sure to make back ups of your course work -- experiencing a technology failure at the eleventh hour is very stressful and seldom an acceptable excuse
  • Test your equipment and connections before meetings and presentations
  • Know where to get help before you need it

Where to Get Help

  • Questions about the course content – Instructor
  • Questions about your degree program – Adviser
  • Questions about college or university procedures – Adviser or Student Services Coordinator (April Bowen or (864) 656-5097)
  • Technology connections – The CCIT Help Desk
  • Send an email message to the Help Desk:
  • Call the Help Desk (864) 656-3594
  • Questions about finding external resources – Librarians

Searching the Net

Online courses frequently require you to search for resources on the Internet. The large numbers of indexes, search engines, and web pages require navigation skills. The library has prepared a guide for you at


  • Always practice Internet Etiquette when communicating electronically. The purpose of communicating electronically in an online course is to share information.
  • Be respectful of other participants, their time, their bandwidth, and their opinions
  • Remember that you are communicating with real people who do not have the advantage of seeing your body language or hearing your voice inflections, and who may interpret your message differently than you intended
    • Using all caps may be interpreted as shouting
    • Use humor and sarcasm carefully (we can’t see the twinkle in your eye); add emoticons to provide a visual representation of your intent
    • Keep your critiques constructive; antagonistic criticism is called flaming and may cause an unwanted reaction
  • Remember that you are judged by the quality of your writing
    • Spelling and grammar do count
    • Be coherent and succinct
    • Don’t plagiarize; respect copyrights
    • Don’t depend on a single source when contributing new information from external resources
    • Be professional

Virtual Groups

Online courses frequently require students to work in virtual groups. To be successful in a virtual group, you need excellent communication skills and a willingness to collaborate. Virtual groups meet in a variety of different ways, including chat rooms, discussion boards, email messages, and telephone calls.

  • Be an active team player
  • Contribute to the assignment and share the work load
  • Share your thoughts about the process, problems, and concerns
  • Provide constructive feedback to the other group members
  • Remember that this is a learning process and should increase your knowledge

Discussion Forums

Discussion forums are designed to facilitate interactions about a particular thread or topic. The discussion forum is usually active for a specified period of time and asynchronous in nature. Participants enter the discussion on their time schedule, read the postings, add comments, and introduce new material related to the topic. The purpose of a threaded discussion is to expand your knowledge through the collective research and comments on the subject. To be successful in online discussion forums, students need to attend to due dates and become actively engaged in the process.

  • Research the topic and add constructive comments and information
  • Practice professional netiquette when communicating with the other participants
  • Visit the discussion frequently
  • Post your contributions early so that others have the opportunity to respond
  • Stay on the subject – resist the temptation to wander too far down a side path
  • Share relevant experiences and external resources
  • Strive for quality more than quantity of postings
  • Include open ended questions in your postings to encourage dialogue

Most of All – Enjoy the Experience!!