Tips for students new to online learning

January 26, 2021 · 5 min read · By Cassie Barbieri
Stay on track with these tips for online learning. ASU knows how to do online school the right way and gives you the tools to be successful.

Once you have chosen your online degree program – or found yourself in a program that has shifted to an online format – you may be searching for tried and true methods that will help you excel in your studies. What steps do you take next? How will you ensure your success while juggling activities of your everyday life?

If you’re uneasy about taking coursework online – fear not. As an ASU Online student, you will have access to resources to help you along your journey to earning a degree, including a coach who is dedicated to your success. To help you take your next step, ASU Online Success Coach Cassie Barbieri shares her tips for online learning.


What are the top three tips for online learning I need to know before starting school?

  1. School is a (worthwhile) time commitment! Remember that you’ll not only need to account for “homework” but for “in-class” time as well, which often gets overlooked.
  2. You’ll want a strong support system. Attending school, especially while juggling a family and job can be stressful. Having a strong support system to rely on when things get tough is a must. If no one in your life fits the bill, your ASU Success Coach will gladly be that person.
  3. Your hard work will be worth it. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics can help show you the future value of your degree by checking out Wage Data by Area and Occupation. This is a great way to anticipate the return on your investment.


I work full-time. How do I find time to study for online classes?

You can do it, but you will want to strengthen those time management skills. Using a planner or online calendar can help you organize your time and use it more effectively. By planning your week ahead of time, you can eliminate time spent wondering which task to tackle each day.

A good rule of thumb is to dedicate six hours a week for each credit hour you take — so for a standard 3 credit-hour class, you can expect to spend 18 hours per week on it. If you can find 2.5 hours a day to focus on school rather than other activities, you should be able to attend part-time with ease.


Are there any resources provided by the university that’ll help me succeed?

Many! Your ASU Success Coach will be where to start and can help you prepare for each upcoming session and overcome obstacles as they arise. In addition to sharing tips for online learning, your coach may point you toward resources like tutoring, Career & Professional Development Services and even crisis counseling.


Do you have any recommendations to help me stay focused during class and homework?

I recommend setting a dedicated space for your studies, free of distractions like clutter, that will allow you to focus. Some students like noise-canceling headphones, while others prefer lo-fi instrumentals or classical music because music with lyrics tends to be distracting.

If you’re easily distracted, using a time management system like the Pomodoro method can help. The idea is that you focus for a shorter period of time, with frequent breaks (25 focused minutes, five-minute break, repeat).

The most important thing is to remember that you are an individual — what works for one student may not work for you and that’s OK. Try to borrow habits that work for you in other areas of life, and apply those to your study routine. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach; it takes time to learn how to do online school with your unique schedule and needs.


What are the biggest hurdles/pitfalls students face when they transition to online learning?

A big initial hurdle is creating the space for school in your life. You will likely need to make some sacrifices, so think about which ones you’re willing to make and remember your WHY! In the thick of things, when stressed, it’s easy to forget why school is important. I suggest writing those reasons down now, create a vision board to inspire you, and talk to loved ones so they can remind you when things get rough.

Another challenge is creating your own schedule. We won’t tell you when you need to “go to class”, so it’s important to carve out that learning time on your own. Recognize that since class time will now be done at home, you must not only account for learning time like lectures, but traditional “homework” time to complete assignments as well. Using a digital calendar or paper planner is a good way to organize the time you need for school when learning. Your Success Coach can help you set up a good schedule that works for you and your life as you learn how to study for online classes.

ASU Online success coaches hold themselves to high standards when it comes to working with students. While a student’s experiences, hurdles and commitments may vary, the goal of helping each student reach their full potential remains consistent. Learn more about ASU support services for online students.


About the author

Cassie Barbieri is a success coach with Arizona State University. As a success coach, she empowers online students to achieve their goals through personalized coaching that helps students manage their time and overcome obstacles. 

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