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Prepare Your Student for Success in Online Classes

Loren Kelly

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Online, asynchronous learning was common before the pandemic, but fully online courses are now more prevalent on many college and university course schedules. I’ve been teaching online courses for 10 years now and love the flexibility it offers students as well as the time management skills it helps them develop! But I see many students who come into online learning underprepared.

While the responsibility for online learning success will be on the student, there are steps parents can take to help their student(s) be successful in an online course. Here are some insider tips from me, an online college instructor!

5 Tips to Prepare Your Student for Success in Online Courses

1. Learning Management System Orientation

Online learning is offered through a learning management system. Canvas and Blackboard are the two most common today. Some K–12 school districts utilize these same systems, but others rely on Google classrooms.

While most students have some prior experience with learning management systems, the features will still vary from institution to institution. The best way to ensure your student starts an online course successfully is to encourage them to complete the institution’s Canvas or Blackboard orientation course. Typically, these orientations are self-paced and take a minimal amount of time. They will save students a lot of frustration and will help ensure deadlines, important assignments, etc. are not missed.

2. Calendar Reminders

In each of my asynchronous courses, I host an informational meeting in Week One that gives students the opportunity to hear my top tips for success and get to know me. The biggest tip I have for students is to pause and set recurring calendar reminders for the course deadlines on their cell phones. Most online instructors will have set due dates (such as every Thursday and Sunday at 11:59 p.m.). By setting a recurring calendar reminder the morning of a due date, the student will have an additional layer of support and accountability!

3. Canvas or Blackboard Help

It's inevitable. Your student is going to have a technology glitch if they take an online course at some point. For many students, these seem to occur outside of normal working hours or very close to a deadline. Knowing how and where to find help is crucial for minimizing panic and maximizing problem solving and success.

Help your student locate the Canvas or Blackboard help function. Most instructors will include a help line number in the course syllabus, but learning management systems also have a chat feature that is available to students 24 hours, 7 days a week.

4. Ethernet Internet Access

Believe it or not, next to time management, the biggest barrier to success that I see online students facing is unreliable WiFi. Whether the service is spotty from the provider, or a household has 20 devices pulling from the WiFi signal, most students will experience WiFi issues on a weekly basis.

The best way to avoid missing a test or a deadline due to unreliable WiFi is to help ensure your student has access to plug directly into an internet source. In your home or on move-in day, have an ethernet cord available for your student. If your student has a new laptop, a small dongle connector may be needed; however, I can assure you these inexpensive cords and connectors are worth the investment to eliminate a WiFi crash during an important exam!

5. Check-Ins

While I know some students hate questions, periodic check-ins with your student as they adjust to online learning can be extremely beneficial. For some students, an online course can be “out of sight, out of mind” if they are not used to this modality.

I would also encourage your student to check in with their online instructors. The biggest disadvantage of online learning is a loss of student-instructor relationship. While I still try very hard to develop relationships with my students, online learning simply makes that more difficult. As a result, I absolutely love it when a student schedules a virtual office hour meeting with me just to say hi and get to know me! Believe me, that student stands out in my mind, and I remember them well!

Your Support Makes a Difference

Due to FERPA laws, parents can have limited involvement in a student’s post-secondary education. However, as you can see from the list above, there are still plenty of steps you can take to help set your child up for success with online learning!

Registration is beginning very soon for summer and fall terms. As your child begins to plan for future semesters with their advisor, I encourage you to become part of this conversation as well. Even if your college student isn’t living with you during their education, they continue to need your love and support. Parents are still very much key players in a college student’s success. On behalf of instructors everywhere, thank you for your vested interest in your student’s success!

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Loren Kelly is an experienced college instructor and private Career Coach for students and young professionals. Her mission is to support students in a focused and meaningful education that leads them to a thriving and fulfilling career. Learn more at
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