Lessons from the Leadership Circle: How to be a Successful Online Student

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This fall, the Van Loan School of Professional Studies nominated seven of its adult undergraduate students to join its Leadership Circle. The group developed an Unofficial Student Survival Guide, for Students by Students, and shared it in three short videos, narrated by Caleb Rogers ’21, who is obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Trauma Studies.

Here are the greatest takeaways from Video 1, Video 2, & Video 3:

Be Prepared: The courses are accelerated, but they are typically published prior to the start of class so that you can review the syllabus beforehand. This will allow you to ensure that you have everything you need for a course, whether it’s a textbook or access to virtual materials, et cetera.

Communication is key: You have speak up—it’s easy to be engaged. “All of the professors I have worked with, if you communicate a want, need, or concern—in a timely and accountable manner—are very willing to work with you and help you.”

Remain accountable: As you are not taking courses in person, you are responsible for ensuring that you have what you need to complete your work, whether that means setting aside time to study, getting organized, and managing your schedule—it is up to you to complete your assignments on time.

Ask Questions: Ask the questions you need answered and don’t give up until you get the answers—this ties in to being accountable. If you are having trouble understanding something, reach out to your professor, your advisor, your fellow students, and conduct your own research. Continue to follow up until you find what you’re looking for.

Engage in the discussions: A lot of the assignments will be discussion based, on virtual boards, where you will post written or video replies to your classmates. “They are awesome, you get to know your classmates this way. I hope that whatever degree track you’re going into, you already have a passion for, so you’re going to find these classes relevant and you’ll be in class with people who are passionate about these topics, or very interested.

Engage with your classmates: Communicating on the forum boards is a great way to make connections and speak with new people. “You’re all coming from these different backgrounds but you can find similarities, and it’s really going to open your mind while you’re working towards your goals.”

Be responsible: Make sure that you’re going onto Canvas and reviewing modules, assignments, and due dates. Classes progress quickly and you don’t want to get behind. If you are having trouble submitting work on time, you are responsible for communicating that to your professor.

Stay on top of things: “Life it easier when you’re organized. Make sure to check in once a day, make sure you know when and how you’re going to get your work done and when you’re doing it. Set time aside so that you can really engage and process the information. Your education deserves your time and respect.”

Have a positive attitude: “Be positive, be optimistic, don’t stress out about what could go wrong, instead, focus on what could go right. Use the resources provided to you by the college and you’ll be a successful college student.”

Take it seriously: “When you join college, it’s not something you can be half engaged in, you’re making a big commitment—but it’s a tremendous amount of fun if you’re engaged. I hope that what you’re studying is directly related to a passion or career path you’ve been pursuing.”

Leadership council's tips for online learning