Skip to main content

5 Tips to Succeed in Your Online Class This Fall Semester

Winter break has come to an end and it’s now time to get back into the school groove. Online students have the advantage of being able to take their classes anywhere that offers an internet connection. This flexibility gives online students the freedom to complete assignments wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them – not to mention the time they save commuting to and from school. Whether you take synchronous or asynchronous online classes, our adult e-learners know balancing schoolwork, work and family obligations can be challenging but not impossible. 

To help our students prepare for the fall semester, we spoke with Erin Cotter – a Training and Development online master’s alumn, who lives and works full time in Asheville, N.C., and has a busy schedule of friends and family activities – to ask for tips on how to overcome the unique challenges adult learners face while taking online classes.

Below are five tips to get the most value out of your online program.

Practice time management

Give yourself ample time to work on an assignment. For an adult learner, it can take a while to get familiar with APA style or to work on citations. Sometimes deadlines fall on holidays or conflict with other plans, so make sure to plan ahead, set priorities and start working on assignments as early as possible.

Taking online college classes can be extensively more rigorous than traditional on-campus classes. Remember that you can’t simply walk away from a class meeting – you’ll need to recreate those on your own schedule. Be prepared to schedule study time and recognize that NC State is high-level academics. Quality production is expected.

Ask questions

Make sure you understand the objective of the assignment and ask your professors if you need more clarity. We sometimes trick ourselves into thinking that others know more or have more experience than us, but that’s not true! Jump into the discussion forums, email your professors and classmates and dare to take some risks. This is your opportunity to engage in a learning collaborative of inquiry. You’ll get a lot more from your online classes if you ask questions and seek understanding. 

Find resources

Whether you need help citing, using APA style or finding reliable research websites – ask for help and find out what your peers are using. For example, you can use the NC State’s online citation builder, or you can chat with a librarian 24 hours a day Monday through Thursday. There are also NC State tutoring centers that can help you free of charge. Seek out free resources and remember that as an online student you have the same academic resources as on-campus students.

Don’t be afraid of video conference calls

This may feel strange at first, but don’t be afraid to participate. This is a good way to meet your classmates, your professor and to make strong connections. Track your questions, learn from others and participate when you can. 

Stay organized

Read and understand the syllabus and the schedule of assignments. This will help you plan your semester ahead of time and make the necessary arrangements if you need some flexibility with a deadline. When a group project is assigned, reach out to your teammates early and create a game plan. Remember to refer to the grading rubrics as you delegate tasks and that your team incorporates adequate time for reviews. 

Lastly, remember to balance your school time with your other commitments and make sure to schedule some time for self-care. For me, this can be taking a 30-minute break to check my inbox or scroll through social media or go for a river swim with my dog. 

If you follow Cotter’s techniques, we think you’ll have a great chance of being successful!
Visit the NC State Online and Distance Education website to review our programs and feel free to email us at if you have any questions.