Get your tools ready!
An online course depends heavily on your computer. Your online class will require you to be comfortable using email, an Internet browser, and a word processor (at the very least). You may also need to install and configure some software or hardware for your class. If you are not currently comfortable doing these things, then you must have a willingness to learn how to do them and be willing to put in a little extra effort to increase your own technical skills.
The environment of an online class is significantly different from that of a traditional class. You do not share the same physical space as your peers or instructor. If you do not participate with great regularity, no one will know that you are there!
Be open minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process
Be able to communicate through writing
In the Virtual Classroom, nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that students feel comfortable in expressing themselves in writing. Many students have limited writing abilities, which should be addressed before or as part of the online experience. This may require remedial efforts on the part of the student.
Be Prepared to Work
You also need to be engaged with the class on a regular basis. There is no implicit time and place to draw you to class. It takes a lot of self-discipline to keep you from falling behind.
Be willing and able to commit to 4 to 15 hours per week per course and log in daily
Online is not easier than the traditional educational process. In fact, many students will say it requires much more time and commitment.
Spend time exploring
There is no lecturer in an online class to explicitly point out all of the aspects of the course. The teacher will give you tools to guide you through the course; maybe a syllabus, reading list, description of assignments, grading or evaluation criteria, etc. Visit each of the links off the main page of your course, and see what's there. Download or print out pages for reference and review when you're offline. Practice sending mail through the system or posting a note to the Discussion Board. See what questions come up for you as you explore the course, and get them answered before the class gets too far down the road.
Take advantage of your time
One difference in the Virtual Classroom is that you can take your time considering your answers to the questions posed in the class. In fact the greatest level of learning is often a result of the issues raised by fellow students in the course. Meaningful and quality input into the online class is an essential part of the learning process. Time is given in the process to allow for the careful consideration of responses. The testing and challenging of ideas is encouraged; you will not always be right, just be prepared to accept a challenge.
Be polite and respectful
Just because you are anonymous doesn't mean you should let yourself go. Being polite and respectful is not only common sense, it is absolutely necessary for a productive and supportive online environment. Always use proper "netiquette."
"Speak up" if problems arise
Many of the non-verbal communication mechanisms that instructors use in determining whether students are having problems (confusion, frustration, boredom, absence, etc.) are not possible in the online classroom. If you are experiencing difficulty on any level (either with the technology or with the course content), you must communicate this immediately. Otherwise the instructor will never know what is wrong.
Observe the Student Code of Conduct
Plagiarism, cheating and other violations of ethical student behavior have no place in a learning community. Violators of the student code of conduct should expect to be treated accordingly. Specific policies are spelled out in the Student Handbook.
Asking Questions or Getting Help
One of the biggest differences between an online course and a traditional classroom course is that you can't see the instructor and students. But the Internet is a powerful tool for communication, so use it! Do not be shy about e-mailing your instructor with questions or even just to say hello. And use the Discussion Tool not just to fulfill assignments but to share your thoughts about what you are learning in the course with other students in your class.
Complete the survey on this site to see how your preferred method of completing tasks might contribute to, or hinder, your success as an online student. If you answer the questions honestly, the resulting score will be a good indication of whether or not online learning might work for you.