Heather Russino By Heather Russino • November 16, 2023

7 Practical Strategies for Online Courses You Might Not Be Using

Online courses are designed for engagement. They are built to encourage students to ask questions, originate dialogue and prompt learners to think about concepts beyond the traditional textbook. Although effective writing and time management skills are paramount, online learning also lends itself to the world of inquiry – enabling you to initiate and conduct your own learning experience.

Once you register to take an online course, you may feel both excited and anxious as you examine the course space and glance at the syllabus. From the outset, it appears the course will introduce many new concepts, offering a new perspective on some overarching themes. Although the content may seem compelling, what brings a class to life is how actively you engage with your mentor and classmates; essentially, you get out of an online course what you put into it – before, during and after.  

Wherever you are on your learning journey, here are seven secrets to help you get the absolute most out of an online course and capitalize on your experience.

Before your course begins:

1. Become familiar with your course space. 

Learn to navigate the myEdison portal along with Blackboard Open LMS, formerly known as Moodle, the learning management system (LMS) where the course resides online. Get comfortable with the platform and click around to ensure you know where everything is located. If you are not sure how to access something, make a list of the items you’ll need assistance with so when the course begins, you can immediately reach out for help.

2. Get to know the FREE resources available to you.

Thomas Edison State University partners with the New Jersey State Library, so there is a wealth of free information directly at your fingertips. If you don’t already have one, be sure to apply for a free library card. Additionally, the University offers registered students access to Brainfuse, an online tutorial service (free of charge!) that connects students with a live professional tutor. You can submit your own writing for feedback and assistance, ask a question, or receive instructional help from a tutor. It is an extremely beneficial and effective service, especially if you need help with your writing. Brainfuse is integrated through your courses in Moodle.

During your course:


3. When you need help, reach out to your mentor and classmates.

Are you unsure of where a particular document is located or can’t find the link to one of the free resources? Be sure to ask for assistance. Use the Private Student-Mentor Forum to communicate with your mentor or the Class Lounge to chat with one of your classmates. If you need help with a particular assignment, don’t wait until the day before the assignment is due to ask for assistance. Plan ahead and tackle any issues as early as possible. If you address challenges as they arise, they won’t become larger issues later on. Not sure how your assignment will be graded? Be sure to reference a rubric to improve your grade and use this as a guide when completing assignments.

4. Step out of your comfort zone.

Get involved. The more engaged you are in the course, the more you will get out of the experience. Ask questions and make connections pertaining to the course content. Be active throughout the discussion forum which is the space where the course “lives.” Offer relevant ideas and share your own story related to the material. Adding value to a Discussion Forum is the best way to connect with your mentor and classmates to create real meaning for the course work.

5. Submit assignments on time.

Use the Course Calendar as a guide as you plan activities and schedule assignments. If you are juggling work, family responsibilities, and other courses, you will need to plan ahead to keep up with your course activities and related deadlines. Submitting your assignments on time is essential when contributing to the dialogue in the course. Use the Course Calendar so you don’t fall behind on any portion of the course.

After your course ends: 


6. Reflect on your performance.

Is there anything you would have done differently? How would you grade your performance – did you put forth your best effort? Did you ask questions? Did you get involved? Did you plan accordingly and submit quality assignments on time? Think about your strong points as reflected in the course and repeat them in the next class. Think of the areas where you need improvement and take note of this. Work hard at making needed changes in the next online course you take.

7. Continue to network with your classmates and mentor even after your course ends.

Networking is one of the many benefits of online learning – you are instantly connected to an entire network of professionals. Consider sharing contact information with your mentor and fellow students to stay connected via social media even after the course ends. Continue to interact and network with this group of professionals since you never know when you may need them (or they may need you!) in the future.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.

Heather Russino

Written by Heather Russino

Heather Russino is an instructional designer in The W. J. Seaton Center for Learning and Technology, an innovative and trailblazing learning environment center that serves self-directed students through the use of current and emerging technology and outcomes-driven curriculum design. A Columbia University graduate and educator for over 20 years, Russino enjoys writing about her areas of expertise in teaching, learning and course design.

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