Today@Sam Article

For Students, From Students: Advice For Online Course Success

April 8, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd

Story by: Mikah Boyd 

COVID-19 has left college students with a change of scenery with the closing of campuses and the cancellation of face-to-face classes. Some are exploring how to best succeed in their hands-on courses that are now on an online platform, which can be new territory for them. 

Students at Sam Houston State University are facing this reality as classes will remain in remote delivery for the remainder of the semester. BreAnna Seal, an SHSU student who has experience with online courses, provided some insight into how to succeed in online course work. 

“One tip I have would be to look closely at your syllabus. Since it is an online course, most instructors will have assignment due dates already listed,” Seal said. “Another major tip would be to finish assignments early. If you stay ahead of all assignments, then you never have to worry about them being late or having technology failures right before the due date.”


Hannah Haney, a graduate student at SHSU who is completing her degree entirely online, also provided some tools for success. 

“I have the most success when I keep a consistent schedule and log-in to my classes at the same time each day. Also, similarly to in-person classes, I think it is really important to communicate with your professors as soon-as-possible if you find yourself falling behind,” Haney said. “They are there to support your learning and should not feel uncomfortable asking for additional explanation on assignments or advice on managing your time.”

This remains true as in-person classes are moved online, the professors that once stood in front of the class are still available to help students that are struggling. Many professors now conduct their office hours online through Zoom meetings and are open to a personal meeting with students through a scheduled Zoom appointment. To do this, students should email their professor in order to check their availability and schedule the meeting.

Not only are there new ways to interact with professors, the online format can get students more involved in class discussions, as Assistant Director of Admissions for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Rebecca Gay explains. 

“Some people may not realize that online and face-to-face courses are alike in that there can be a lot of student interaction. One of the most beneficial things for me was when professors used discussion boards,” Gay said. “I was the student in a classroom that probably would not have spoken up about a topic, whereas online you are required to participate in discussion boards.”

Rebecca Gay completed her Master of Arts in Higher Education online in 2013, when online classes were becoming more common at SHSU. She found the new format challenging but also helpful as it allowed her to grow as a student. From this, she learned that it is important to be disciplined and focused while completing coursework online.

“It is easy to get behind and nearly impossible to get caught up,” Gay said. “If the course does not have deadlines, create your own to make sure you are meeting milestones.”

Gay also provided some tips for students as they continue their classes remotely: 

  • Log into your courses every day, multiple times a day. You never know what announcements are being made inside the course and not being emailed to you. Especially if there are virtual office hours or a virtual office discussion board where classmates are asking questions and the professor is responding.
  • Know your syllabus backwards and forwards and ask for clarification from the professor if you do not understand something.
  • Take time for yourself. This is a major change and while it deserves a large part of your focus and energy, you have to be sure that you are feeling fulfilled. If working out gives you the mental break you need, do it. If painting inspires you, do that. Whatever it is that keeps you going needs to be a priority too.

As courses are moved online, professors are facing the same amount of stress as students, as they work to make the transition as painless as possible. It may take them a little longer to respond to emails at first, so patience is key during this time because we are all going through this together.

While keeping this in mind, Haney also encourages students to have fun with their classes and continue to interact with your classmates. Doing this will help you get the most out of your classes as you complete them remotely. 

For tips on how to succeed in online courses, visit

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