Student Success Strategies


So, you are enrolled in an online course. Congratulations! Online classes are an effective and rewarding way to learn, and they can provide a great deal of flexibility to help you meet your work, family, and personal responsibilities. UWM has a strong reputation for offering high-quality online courses, and research shows that online learning works. Even if you have never taken an online course before, you can be successful!

Here are some proven success strategies for online learning:

Know What You’re Getting Into

Many students believe that online courses are easier than face-to-face courses. This is not the case! Online courses will require you to meet the same learning objectives as their face-to-face equivalents. However, online courses use different types of activities to engage you in the course and to help you learn. In short, make sure to treat your online courses with the same seriousness as your other courses.

Check Canvas and UWM Email Daily

Your online instructor will probably communicate with you through Canvas or your UWM email. Check them daily! You don’t want to miss out on important announcements about course changes or due dates. Review the syllabus to see if there are other ways that the instructor plans to connect with you and then check those communication channels as well. You can also receive push notifications when you use the Canvas for Students mobile app.

Ask Questions

Contact your online instructor if you are confused or have questions about course content, assignments, or anything else in the class. Your instructor won’t know that you are having issues unless you reach out to them! Unlike in face-to-face courses—where instructors can scan the room for signs of confusion or uncertainty—online instructors may rely on you to take the initiative when you need help.

Develop a Study Plan

Online learning requires a bit more discipline, time management, and self-motivation. Develop a schedule of when you plan to do your coursework and stick to it! Because you may have questions that require you to contact your online instructor, give yourself a little extra time to complete your assignments, both in terms of when you get started and how long you plan to work on them.

Find a Good Place to Study

Locate a distraction-free space to do your work and avoid multitasking during your established work times. Shut off your phone or leave it in another room. Steer clear of social media or random internet searches. You can always reward yourself with periodic connection breaks when you have met your study goals. Ask family and friends to respect your study time and space so that you can be most successful.

Stay Organized

Use a to-do list and a calendar to keep track of assignments, due dates, and virtual meetings. If your online instructor uses Canvas due dates, you can easily track what is coming up by looking at your Dashboard, your Calendar, or in the Coming Up area of your Canvas course site. If your online instructor does not use Canvas due dates, use a printed calendar or Office 365 to stay organized.

Complete All Assignments

Many online courses require you to complete more assignments than you might normally do in your face-to-face courses. These assignments are usually intended to help you learn better and to keep you actively participating in the course. Make sure that you complete every assignment. Missing homework can quickly affect your grade, and most importantly, the assignments in the course are there to help you demonstrate your learning.

Connect with Other Students

Your classmates are a great resource, so connect with them as much as possible. For each of your online classes, find a partner that you check in with regularly through email or text. Set up virtual study sessions. Give it your all when you contribute to online discussions. Just like in face-to-face classes, you can develop a great support network with other students that may extend beyond the course and the current semester.

Be Flexible

Online instructors occasionally make mistakes. For example, they might have forgotten to publish a course module or to make an important link or resource available. When these things happen, working ahead and communicating with your online instructor can help you avoid stress, but being flexible with your study plans may also be necessary from time to time.

Use Online Campus Resources

There are number of fantastic support resources at UWM that you can use as a student taking an online course. Your online instructor may have other resources to recommend to support you in your learning, but here are some of the most important ones:

Academic Support

Technology Support

Health Resources