ATLIS | Athens Technology Learning & Innovation Space

Student Guide to Learning Online

Student at deskLearning online can be a challenge, especially if you’re suddenly having to shift into it from a face-to-face course. Lessons and assignments can take on a very different form, and the social dynamic can leave you feeling pretty isolated.

In spite of this, online learning does offer some benefits. Most online courses offer greater flexibility for students. Even though tests and assignments usually have a specific due date and time, lessons and lectures are most often offered asynchronously, meaning you can access them when it’s convenient for your schedule. And, because those lectures are often printed or on video, students have a resource they can review multiple times as they study. This is different from the “one and done” phenomenon of most live lectures in face-to-face instruction.

There are some very real challenges to online learning, as well. In this article, we offer some tips and guidelines to help you better navigate these challenges.


One of the key benefits of face-to-face instruction is the high level of informal interactivity that is automatically present. This is not the case in online, and is probably what you will miss the most. Even though interaction is usually more formal and less spontaneous, it’s important to take a moment to learn to use the communication tools appropriately.

This is the most important communication document in your course, and provides information about course objectives, required texts and resources, assignments, tests & quizzes, grading scale & policies, university policies, resources, etc. Because you probably won’t be able to directly ask your instructor as many questions as you can in a face to face course, carefully studying the Syllabus becomes more important.
In most courses, this where your instructor provides weekly information, including general feedback and reminders about lessons and assignments. This also the place where the instructor announces changes in the course. Be sure to read announcements as soon as they are posted, as they often contain timely information.
Discussion Forums
Forums are a relatively simple, low-tech way of engaging you in conversations about the course content. Because they are asynchronous, you have greater flexibility regarding when you post. Forums allow you to carefully compose and revise your comments before you submit them. Instructors often use a Forum location for students to post questions and comments about the course. If your instructor has set up such a forum, be sure to use it for this purpose, rather than email. Nothing is more irritating and time-consuming for an instructor than having to answer multiple emails with the same question, especially if the answer is posted in the forum! Please help your instructor and your fellow students by using this resource as it was intended.
In most courses, email is the course tool for personal interaction with your instructor. Use this tool to ask specific questions about your assignments and feedback. Keep in mind that this tool sends emails to your school email account, not your personal one. Be sure to check the Discussion Forum for answers to your questions before emailing your instructor. Most instructors will have a policy stated in the Syllabus that specifies how and when an email is appropriate, and the time frame in which to expect a response. Be sure you are familiar with this policy.
Online Office Hours
If your instructor has posted online office hours, taking advantage of this tool could greatly enhance your feelings of connection in the course. Remember, your instructor may be feeling the same sense of isolation you do! Having a personal online meeting can be beneficial for both of you! Be sure to follow his/her guidelines for scheduling an appointment, and attend any appointment you make. Also, test the meeting tool beforehand, so that technology isn’t a factor in your meeting.
Synchronous Meetings
Instructors may hold synchronous meetings through Zoom, Collaborate, or some other tool. These meetings require you to participate at a specific date and time, using a webcam, phone, and/or your computer. If possible, be sure to test the meeting tool out in advance, to make sure you can connect.

Tips for Participating in a Live Online Meeting

  1. Connect your computer to a wired ethernet connection, if possible. Wired connections are generally faster and more stable than WiFi.
  2. During your online meeting, limit the number of TV’s and other devices vying for access to the internet in your home.
  3. Close all other programs on your computer that aren’t a part of your online meeting.
  4. Be aware of alternate options for access. For example, Zoom meetings have a phone number you can call into, so that you can participate through a normal phone call if you can’t access by video.
  5. Run a test beforehand. Many programs (like Zoom) have a test session to which you can link to test your connection in advance of the meeting.
  6. During the online meeting, only turn on your mic and/or camera if the instructor asks you to do so.
How to Get Help

We have assembled a special collection of Guides & Tutorials on moving to online courses. Please consult these guides.

We will be conducting live Zoom webinars to assist students with questions and issues in their online courses.


Students with specific account needs should contact the Help Desk directly.

Due to the increased level of need, individual support is extremely limited, and walk-in support is not available. Individuals can request support by going to You will be contacted as soon as possible to discuss your needs.

ATLIS | Athens Technology Learning & Innovation Space