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Tips for Learning Online

This content was republished with permission from the Florida State University Tips for Learning Online webpage at and based on an adaption of original content 1) by Glenn Pillsbury at Stanislaus State, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at and 2) from Penn State University’s Online Readiness Questionnaire, which was also published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license at

While this document contains links to resources at FSU, students may want to seek out similar resources at their own university.

Online learning offers a level of flexibility and convenience that a classroom environment can’t. It’s also a very different experience than traditional, face-to-face learning. What’s required of you will differ than what’s required of on-campus students. Learning online will take motivation, self-direction, and a realistic knowledge of your personal learning preferences and abilities. To thrive online, it’s important you know what’s expected and what it takes to succeed.

Self-Direction | Being proactive is key to successful online learning. You need to be able to solve problems and reach out for help when you need it. It’s up to you to set goals and deadlines for yourself, developing strategies that help you stay on task and avoid distractions while studying.

Learning Preferences | Do you retain information well by reading it, or do you do better if you hear it spoken directly to you? Do you rely on face-to-face interaction with peers or your instructor to learn well? In an online course, you’ll need to learn from a variety of media, like podcasts, videos, and conferencing. You’ll also need to be comfortable reading and studying independently. Because you won’t be interacting with classmates and your instructor face-to-face, be prepared to dialogue through email, chats, and online discussions. These are key to staying connected and performing well in an online course.

Study Habits | Good study habits are essential to success online. Set aside a space where you can study without distraction, and expect to dedicate from 7-12 hours a week for one online course. It takes planning and good time management to make sure work is completed by the deadline. Have a way of tracking assignments and due dates, and when you have questions, be willing to contact classmates and instructors. Make use of available study resources like the FSU Academic Center for Excellence which provides a wide range of study tools and tips and can help you design a study plan based on your academic goals.

 Writing Skills | Writing skills are essential to learning online, and it’s important that you’re able to express yourself using formal grammar and spelling. Brush up on skills before you start an online course. Once you’re in your course, take advantage of our online tutoring resources, like the RWC-Online, FSU’s online reading-writing center.

Technical Skills | It’s important you have experience using a computer and common software programs for email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. You’ll also need to be comfortable conducting internet searches, downloading files, installing software, and adjusting settings on your computer. Be sure to have a plan in case your computer or internet connection fail, and be sure to back up your work regularly.

Hardware and Software| Make sure your computer and operating system are as up-to-date as possible (less than 3 years old), with a stable, high-speed internet connection and virus protection software. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the recommended browsers for FSU’s online courses. To optimize your learning experience, we also recommend you have headphones, a microphone, and a webcam. Make use of the myFSUVLab which provides FSU students free, 24/7 web access to over 30 common and specialty software applications.