How to Succeed as an Online Student

In order to get the most out of your online learning experience, you will need to master a few important skills. Here are some things you should be particularly aware of as you start your online studies.


First, be sure you have easy access to a computer with a high-speed internet connection. Reliable hardware, software, and internet access are essential to all online courses.

When you access a course for the first time, it is recommended you start by reviewing the syllabus, exploring the online course materials and – if the course includes streaming-video lectures – watching the first lecture (either live or archived) as soon as possible. You may wish to print the course syllabus. The course syllabus can always be viewed online, but you may want it available in printed form so you can check off assignments you have completed and highlight assignments that are due soon.

Time Management

Time management is one of the most important aspects of succeeding as an online student. You need to be able to set your own schedule and balance existing commitments, such as work and family. Try to choose a time when you can study most effectively. Better yet, try to book several study time slots throughout the week. Stay committed to your study times; treat them like an appointment that can't be moved. You may need to aim for at least ten hours of study time per week for each course that you are taking. Be sure to turn in all assignments as they are due. Studying at home or from work can be difficult, so set goals to work toward. For more insights about time management, watch this Student Learning Center video.


Just because you aren't in a classroom surrounded by other students, that doesn't mean you don't have to participate. Online courses are instructionally designed to encourage student interactions with each other and with the instructor. Many courses have discussion boards and chat rooms. Always post on the discussion board when required. It may count as class participation and can be a significant part of your grade. Try to ask questions, make analytical comments, or just offer support to others. Not only will you learn more, but you may have the answer someone needs. The more you put into your online course, the more you will get out of it.

Study Environment

The environment in which you study can have a huge impact on how much information you actually end up absorbing. If you need complete quiet in order to study, don't take your laptop to the local coffee shop. If you like music in the background as you do your work, you may not study most effectively in a silent library. Take time to consider your study environment and then tailor it to your needs. Make sure that you:

  • sit in a supportive chair with your computer on a desk.
  • have enough space for your textbooks, notebooks, and papers.
  • have a good source of light and ventilation.
  • are not bombarded with constant interruptions.

Study Skills

Study skills are essential to efficient and effective learning. As an online student, you will need to have particularly good study skills in order to synthesize and analyze course information. Check out this Chico State Student Learning Center video focusing on Study Skills. In order to learn more efficiently try:

  • making hard copies of all your online notes and assignments.
  • making a folder on your computer of all your course-related work.
  • keeping track of important dates, like midterms and project due dates.
  • reading all assigned course material in a timely manner.

Ask For Help

Your instructor wants to help – if you have questions about course material, let your instructor know right away. If you are experiencing technical difficulties using your computer or accessing certain files, contact the Chico State IT Support Services at (530) 898-4357, toll-free at (800) 780-4837, or at

The same friendly staff that assist on-campus students are available to off-campus students. The University offers a variety of services to online students. From Student Identification Cards to Financial Aid, the University provides opportunities for all students to be successful. This link will lead you to the many student services that are available to you.

Academic Integrity

California State University, Chico, standards regarding academic integrity issues such as plagiarism can be found on the Student Conduct, Rights & Responsibility website. These standards apply to online students as well as to on-campus students. If they are violated, they will result in disciplinary action up to and including expulsion from the University.

Academic Advising

Academic advisors are available to help you plan the pathway to your degree. They are knowledgeable about degree requirements and the courses that are offered online. A contact list of online program advisors can be found here.

Accessibility Accommodations: If you need special disability accommodations for accessing any information on this website, please contact Professional & Continuing Education. For accommodations for an event, workshop, or online or on-campus class, please contact the Accessibility Resource Center.