1 Introduction to Online Learning

For many of you, learning online is a new experience. In this section I’ve provided some tips and resources to help you get started with online learning.

As adult learners, you get out what you put in – that is, if you only do the minimum needed to get credit in an online course, then you are will get the minimum out of the course. If you use online learning as an opportunity to expand your knowledge and you take every opportunity you can to learn, you will get more out of the course.

Recognize also that not everyone in the course has the same goal. Some of your colleagues will go above and beyond the course requirements while others will do only what is required. Please be patient with one another and appreciate that we all have different situations that impact our abilities to be engaged adult learners.


Netiquette is a term used to describe appropriate behaviours when working on the Internet. It is an old concept, but one that everyone should be reminded of on a regular basis.

Albion provides a good summary of the Core Rules of Netiquette.

Tips for Online Learning

For many of you, online learning is a new experience. Many of the best practices for online learning are the same as for face-to-face learning. The bigger issue is that you won’t have a face-to-face class to ensure you are keeping pace with the course.

Time management is always the number issue for students. One thing that I find with online courses is that students forget to account for the extra 3 hours they would have spent in the classroom – so they look at online as only the ‘homework’ component of the course and not the interactive part of the course. I recommend that you plan to check-in to your courses at least 3 times during the week. I know most students do the majority of their work on weekends, however, the courses in this program are designed to include interactivity throughout the week.

If you know you are going to be away one week, or traveling for part of a week, try to get ahead before you leave. Also if it coincides with teamwork, ensure that you tell your teammates.

Dedicated study space: Find a space that helps your focus on your studies. Everybody is different. Some students like the white noise of a coffee shop where other prefer the silence of the library.

Reduce distractions: This is an online course so there will always be distractions on your computer – Facebook, email, text messages can all distract from studying. I’m on a Mac, and one thing I do is to turn off notifications when I want to study, and I use a different workspace window. So I don’t get any pop ups that break my concentration.

Ask questions: Do not allow yourself to get frustrated. One strategy I employ is to set a time limit for how long I will try to figure something out. If I cannot, then I either ask a question or walk away and work on something else for a bit. Usually, that time away gives me a new perspective to that helps me solve the problem. If you are stuck, don’t be afraid to ask questions – your classmates are also likely stuck.

Learn the technology: Allocate some dedicated time to learning how to use the tools you need to be efficient in your classes. Spending a little time early on learning how to use Microsoft Word styles, for example, will save you a lot of time down the road. Most weeks, I’ll be introducing new technologies and providing links to tutorials. Use that time to figure out which technologies work well for you.

Beat deadlines: Try to get assignments done early. Inevitably something will come up at the last minute that will make it difficult for your to get your assignment completed. If you start early, you will be under less pressure later. Now, if something does come up and you just cannot finish online, let me know as soon as you realize you are going to have a problem.

Identify your learning goals: Not everyone is hear for the same reason, but you all did decide to take this course. You are here for a reason. It might be helpful to write this down somewhere to remind yourself of it whenever you go through a difficult patch in the course.

Consider the Pomodoro technique: I will put a referenced to this as a link to this slide and in the post comments. Pomodoro is based on the idea that you can focus for short stints of time – although this is slightly different for everyone. Personally I use 30 minutes. I have an app called TimeOut that tells me when 30 minutes is up and actually kicks me off my computer for 5 minutes. This helps my body from getting stiff, but it also helps me refocus my mind, so that I can get things done. Often when I’m procrastinating, I can convince myself to just do one Pomo – which then gets me kick started and next thing I know, I’m working for hours (with a 5 minute break every 30 minutes).

Figure out what works for you: Since this is your first class, and some of you may have been out of school for a while, and likely when you were in school you were at a different place in your life. Take the first few weeks to really pay attention to what works well for you and what doesn’t. You can then integrate this into your schedule. For example, I’m a morning writer. I get my best focused work done first thing in the morning. I started setting and alarm and getting up earlier because it meant more productive hours for me. Once it hits dinner time I’m done for the day. My brain is shot by then, so I generally leave that time to browsing / reading / and answering the occasional question. Each one of us is different, figure out what works for you.

The Pomodoro Technique

Below is a great video that introduces the Pomodoro Technique. I find that even when I’m busy or stressed, I can find 20-25 minutes to sit down and focus, and by doing this, it reduces my stress and makes me more productive.

Other Resources

Since Covid, the number of resources available to help learn how to learn online has increased dramatically. I’ve curated a few of the ones I think might be useful:


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Foundations of Instructional Design by Rebecca J. Hogue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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