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This image is the Online Learning Tips page title bar. Like all title bars of the Student Support site, it is blue and shows a picture of a group of students talking at a table.

 Online Learning Tips

About this Page

Online learning may mean you need to adopt different studying, preparation, and learning habits than learning on-ground.  Use the tips below to help you become a natural online learner.

On this page, you will be given tips on:

  • online learning tips

  • online etiquette/netiquette

Online Learning Tips

Here are some tips on how to improve your success as an online learner.​

  • Prepare before the first day: Courses are open one week before the semester officially begins.   On the first day your course is available, log in, and do the following:

    • Read the syllabus, Instruction/Rubric Documents, Course Office lesson, and Getting Started lesson.  Look for those first. Get an idea of what assignments may be tricky for you and create a plan of how to be successful with those tasks.  Do not wait until the week the assignment is assigned.  

    • Also, look at the Activities Checklist in the syllabus and take note of when assignments are due,and create a plan on how to complete these tasks.  Some students need to write each assignment from all their classes on one calendar for the entire semester.  Create a method that works for you!

  • Make a schedule: Many online students find it helpful to set aside a specific time each day to work on their online courses. Online courses give you more flexibility in when you work, but they still require just as much effort and time as a face-to-face course. Plan to spend an average of 10 to 15 hours a week for a three-credit online course. Some weeks may require longer; take the time you personally need to absorb the material and complete the work. Please use the Activities Checklist to help you create a schedule!

  • Ask questions: If you aren’t sure about something, ask! Faculty and staff are here to help you. Other students may be able to answer questions too. You can email or post questions in the forums or on the dashboard of your course.

  • Participate in discussions: Online courses don’t mean you’re learning alone. Online forums are one of the main methods of interacting with your instructor and fellow students. These discussions are a great place to exchange ideas with your peers. Be present and active in the forums. View online forums like face-to-face discussions.  If someone commented to you, you wouldn't ignore them; you would respond to them.  Make sure that you ask questions, answer questions, and help each other dig a little deeper.

  • Plan ahead: Look ahead to the upcoming topics and assignments. If you need to request research articles from the library, leave plenty of time for them to arrive so you don’t feel rushed. For small group assignments, reach out to your group members early to set expectations if possible.

  • Be nice: Remember when you post online that there is a real person on the other side of the computer. There are plenty of detailed netiquette guidelines available online, such as the ones linked below. Even if you can’t remember all those rules though, they basically boil down to “be nice.” Remember that it can be hard to determine tone in forums or email. Give people the benefit of the doubt, and forgive them if they make a mistake.

  • Save your work: It’s a nightmare scenario — you spend an hour composing a brilliant post for the forum, only to have the power go out and lose everything right before you submit. Save backup copies of your work. Some students find it helpful to write posts in Microsoft Word first, saving a backup document, before posting to the forums.

  • Have a backup plan: What happens if your internet connection at home goes down? What if your computer dies? Make plans for an alternate location with internet access or an alternate computer (library, friend, family, etc.). Keep a hard copy of your instructor’s contact information. That way, even if you can’t log in, you still have a way to reach out for help.



Kim, J. (2001, July 13). Your advice for online learners? Inside Higher Ed.

Performance Learning Systems. (2008). Characteristics of Successful Online Learners.”

Online Etiquette/Netiquette

Etiquette, or "netiquette" as appropriate online communication is commonly referred to, are the manners and acceptable behaviors one should be demonstrating online. Use the information below to learn about proper online behavior.

Emails and Discussion Forums

The following are netiquette rules that are applicable for both emails and discussion forums:

Identify Yourself -

  • Greet the readers with a salutation.

  • Sign your name at the end of your message. 

Subject Header -

  • Include a subject link that accurately describes the message. 

  • Be careful not to continue using an email thread that has changed subjects; always start a new email thread with a new subject header.

Professionalism -

  • Use professional, scholarly language that consists of correct grammar and spelling. Avoid using text language such as BTW, LOL, ROFL, etc.). 

  • Keep in mind  that rude language is not accepted in a scholarly forum.

  • Disagree with ideas and avoid personal attacks; assume the best of others. 

  • Don't send emotional messages.  If you are triggered by something, wait 24 hours before sending a response. 

  • Refrain from sarcasm as it may go misunderstood by others. 

  • Avoid plagiarism by properly quoting and citing others.

  • Use emoticons when appropriate as this may be helpful to conveying meaning, but use caution as overusing emoticons can be distracting and annoying to readers. 

  • Be open to being challenged about your ideas or prejudices so that knowledge is expanded. Challenges to others should always be with the intent of fostering growth.  

  • Send all messages related to your academic work through your Hazelden Betty Ford email account. 

Formatting -

  • Use  standard fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica) and colors (black) so that the text is easily readable.  


Social Media

For Information Technology Guidelines describing the Graduate School's social media policy, please refer to page 54 in the student handbook.

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