Tips for a successful online experience

Be realistic.

Do you dream of online courses allowing you an abundance of down time and freedom from instructors, group projects, and demanding deadlines? If so, please read about the Mason Online Experience on the FAQs page so that you are not surprised when your class starts.

  • Plan on doing the same amount of work as is required for a face-to-face class.
  • Adhere to the deadlines and rubric that your instructor has outlined in the syllabus.
  • Interact with other students.
  • Occasionally participate in a “synchronous” component that requires a specific log-in time.

Take responsibility for your own learning.

The freedom and flexibility offered by online learning comes with important responsibilities for you.

  • Develop self-discipline.
  • Resist procrastination temptations or distractions.
  • Embrace new technology.
  • Participate in the group and avoid isolation.
  • Improve your written communication skills.

Stay linked in with Mason.

Deadlines, policies, and services are the same for online and on-campus students. Mason will occasionally email your MasonLive account with critical reminders, but it is ultimately your responsibility to stay informed.

Deadlines and policies

Check the Student Resources page for more information on available services and resources.

Know the syllabus.

Your course syllabus is the key to successful time management. Read it carefully to keep track of important items, like those listed below.

  • Desired learner outcomes of the course
  • Necessary textbooks
  • Course assignments and required deliverables
  • Grading policies
  • Standards for assignment evaluation
  • The course schedule (deadlines for readings, discussion posts, quizzes, discussion board postings, etc.)
  • Times and dates of possible “synchronous” class meetings which require you to log-in at a specific time

Organize your time.

Online learning is not just an answer to scheduling problems. Even with a more flexible schedule, online courses still require the same amount of time as face-to-face courses.

  • Log-in to each online class a minimum of 4 days per week.
  • Block out 8 to 12 hours per week for each online class.
  • Schedule more time during the first few weeks of class to orient yourself to the online environment.
  • Break big tasks into manageable parts.
  • Use tools like the Blackboard Mobile app to make organization easier.

Create a study space.

Will you be studying in your office after work, at home, or at the public library? Wherever it may be, look for a study space that is quiet with a door that closes, has adequate lighting and electrical outlets, and offers limited distractions.

Check your technology.

Before your online class starts, be prepared and check these key technical requirements.

Stay connected.

Make the most of your course and communicate regularly with your instructor and peers. This will help you gain exposure to a variety of perspectives, practice articulating your ideas, receive feedback on your thoughts, and avoid isolation. Actively stay connected using discussion boards, small group work, research sharing, or peer reviews.

Consider the rules of Netiquette.

Craft your messages carefully to avoid misinterpretation. Keep these online communication strategies in mind.

  • Avoid vague words, jargons, and sarcasm.
  • Limit or eliminate the use of exclamation points, bolding, capital letters, and emoticons.
  • Change subject lines of email chains regularly.
  • Plan carefully who to CC on messages.
  • Edit meticulously.

See Virginia Shea’s book Netiquette for other ideas.

Need to learn more?

Have questions about online learning, enrollment, or degree programs?

Request Info