Student Guide to Successful Online Education

Lizzie Ottenstein
Shreejana Mainali
A student using his computer for online education.

Students of all ages have been affected by COVID-19. UNESCO reports 9 out of 10 of the world’s students (87%) lack quality in-person education. As a student, it’s normal to feel anxious when you have little control over a changing environment. Here are a few ways to adjust, take charge, and succeed in your online learning journey.

1. Upgrade your technical skills

Let’s start simple. To be a successful online learner, you need basic technical skills such as how to use Google Drive, how to download and install software, create folders, and write an email to your school. If your school hasn’t conducted training on how to use their online platform, take time to get to know its features so you can best navigate the tools you need. 

For instance, learn how to use chat boards, library portals, file-sharing programs, or the video conferencing software required for your courses. Upgrade your typing speed with TypingClub. When communicating with teachers and other community members, write in full, grammatically correct sentences. You can install Grammarly or visit the website to improve your grammar and vocab skills.


2. Avoid sidetracking

Distractions like social media, internet surfing, and online games deplete time and energy better spent studying. Avoid this by turning off your cell phone or putting it on airplane mode. If you’re struggling to stay focused, consider downloading apps such as Freedom and KeepMeOut to minimize online browsing and maintain uninterrupted study. 


3. Take advantage of online resources

Online learning is more effective when it embraces a variety of methods. First check out your school’s pre-recorded audio and video. There are also many free resources you can find with just a quick browse. Here are some of the best:

For personalized learning:

  • Khan Academy allows you to practice at your own pace, assesses your understanding, and provides content accordingly. It covers math K-12 through early college, grammar, science, history, AP®, SAT®, and more. Khan Academy is not to be missed! 
  • Coursera offers massive open online courses, specializations, and degrees.
  • YouTube Learn at Home provides video content and resources for people of all ages and interests with access to livestreams and tutorials. 

For books and content:

  • Project Gutenberg provides a library of over 60,000 eBooks with no fee or registration required. 
  • CK-12 serves as a digital textbook that provides free resources like videos, online flashcards, and exercises on over 5,000 concepts. 

For research:

  • Google Scholar is a search engine that provides access to scholarly literature in a range of formats and disciplines. 

For coding:

  • Codecademy is an interactive platform that offers coding classes in 12 different programming languages including Python, Java, Go, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL, C++, Swift, and Sass, as well as markup languages HTML and CSS. 


4. Take advantage of learning tools

There are many learning tools to guide you through each stage of learning. Here are some of them: 

For studying: 

  • StudyBlue lets you create flashcards and practice quizzes for in-depth learning.
  • Quizlet provides access to millions of study sets and quizzes. The basic version is free. 

For note taking: 

  • MindNode helps map your brainstorming and structure ideas into essays. The basic version is free. 
  • Simple Mind a tool to help structure your thoughts. 
  • Google Keep keeps track of notes, pictures, and audio in one location, making it easy to share with friends and family. 

For organizing: 

  • Evernote collects and organizes documents, notes, presentations, and images all in one place.
  • myHomework keeps assignments organized and provides reminders for deadlines. The basic version is free.
  • Trello categorizes and prioritizes to do lists and projects and allows you to work collaboratively with others. 

For time management:

  • Focus Booster breaks up your schedule into manageable chunks and suggests breaks accordingly. 
  • Studious automatically monitors your class schedule and silences your device during these periods. 

Last but NOT least… To relax (!):

  • Headspace provides guided meditations and content to help you relax and focus.
  • Ten Percent Happier provides basic to more advanced guided meditations for all aspects of life.


5. Enhance your test-taking skills

Online tests can be intimidating but become less so the more familiar you get with them. Here are a few strategies to ace your online exam.

  • Before: Many students lose points because they don’t follow instructions properly, so  make sure you read and understand them before taking the exam. Misunderstandings can be avoided easily. Take mock online tests to get familiar with the format before the actual exam. 
  • During: Make sure you have a stable and fast internet connection. Don’t waste time on one question. Try completing the easy ones first to build confidence. If you’re having tech issues, immediately alert your professor. Before submitting your answers, review them once or twice.
  • After: Reflect on the exam. What questions were hard? What questions were easy? Asking these questions will help you identify areas for improvement and how to best manage your time.

It takes time to adjust to online learning, so be patient with yourself! There are many resources and tools available that not only keep you focused and motivated, but also help you become the best online student you can be. You can do it!