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Online Learning

Tips for Success in Online Learning

success guide for online learning              

This guide is meant to help you navigate the world of online learning. It will walk you through the steps that are proven to make students successful in college.

top 5 must knows

1.   The syllabus

On the first day of an online class, login to Brightspace and access your course. Read any announcements and go to the Content link at the top of the page to find the course syllabus. Download it and print it - it is your "handbook" for the course and contains important information on the course, including how to contact your instructor should you have any questions.

2.  Self-discipline & time management are critical

Online classes do not have the structure of requiring you to go to class on a specific day and time, so you will need to be self-disciplined in creating your own study schedule. Be sure to allow yourself time for unexpected interruptions, such as work schedule changes, computer or internet problems, illness of yourself or family members, and other complications of normal student life.

3.   Feedback may not be immediate

When you email your instructor or ask a question on a discussion board, a reply might not be immediate. Instructors typically respond to all inquiries very quickly, but please allow two business days at most. For your instructor's specific communication policy, check your course syllabus.

4.   Netiquette

Follow proper internet etiquette when emailing professors, posting to discussion boards or corresponding with your classmates and others. Always use proper grammar, avoid slang or text language, and use a collegial tone.

5.   Basic Microsoft programs

Become familiar with programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The complete Microsoft Office Suite and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage are available to North Central Students for FREE (using your North Central email when signing up).



Goal Setting


The # 1 thing to remember about online learning is that it all depends on YOU.

While there is much more flexibility involved in an online learning environment, figuring out how to manage your time, stress and goals will be essential in order to become a successful online student.

There may be times that you feel isolated or separated from professors, other students and staff. Remember, all of these people are just a phone call, email or message away.

Be proactive in your interactions. Ask for help or advice. Be resourceful and seek out anything you feel like you need in order to produce your best work. 



3 tips for goal setting

Use the SMART method

Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. For instance, set a goal to complete your first course one week early. However, do not set unreachable goals, like finishing a course in three weeks.

Make checklists

Write down your goals for the day. These can be big or small: read chapter 5 or complete a research paper outline. As you complete the goals, check them off, cross them out or highlight them. This will allow you to visualize what you accomplish and will provide motivation to keep going.

Reward yourself

When you finish a big research paper or complete a course, give yourself a prize. Go see a movie, get a pedicure or eat at your favorite restaurant. You deserve it!



6 ways to manage your time


1.   Keep a calendar

Whatever works best for you: desk or wall calendar, planner or phone app. Make sure to mark your study times, test taking times, paper writing times, work times and all other appointments on your calendar.

2.   Track your days

As you adjust to being a student again, keep track of your time each day. How much time is wasted while you are waiting to pick up the kids, sitting in the doctor’s office lobby or waiting for dinner to cook? For most people, there are several short blocks of time wasted throughout the day. If you recognize and plan for these, you can complete small study tasks during this time, such as reviewing notes for a test or skimming a chapter.

3.   Block your time

Plan your day by blocking out what you should be working on for each half hour. This should include blocking out time to eat, shower, commute to/from work, work, study, spend time with kids/family and relax. Try to stick to the time block as much as possible, but do not be too rigid. If you restrict yourself too much, you can add to your stress.

4.   Know when you are most productive

If you are a morning person, make sure to set some of that time aside for studying or working on coursework. If you work better in the evening, set aside study time then. If you know when you are most productive, you can get work done more efficiently.

5.   Learn to say, “no”

It is easy to get wrapped up in tasks that you should not take on. For many, saying no is not easy; however, most people will understand that your studies are important and will respect your decision.

6.   Procrastination is not your friend

Putting work off until the last minute can be highly detrimental because, if you get sick, you cannot expect immediate help from professors or staff. Some students work better under pressure; however, it is highly suggested to get your work done early so you can ask questions if needed.


stress management

Online learning can become stressful for any student. Whether it is falling behind in a course or struggling to understand a concept, stress can affect students in all aspects of learning and beyond. 


5 tips to reduce stress

1. Ask for help

You have many advocates at North Central. From your professors to your Academic Advisor, you have so many people to go to for help. Do not be afraid to ask any type of question. If one person does not know how to answer it, he or she will find someone who does.

2. Take breaks

If you have an 8-page research paper to write, don’t try to write all eight pages in one sitting. Make an outline and write one section at a time. Allowing yourself time to breathe will make your work time much more productive.

3. Eat well, sleep well and exercise

These basic habits can play a tremendous role in managing stress. Lack of sleep or nutrition can cause you to become sluggish and increase your stress level. Exercise will give you an extra boost of energy.

4. Don’t miss the forest for the trees

If you have an assignment that is causing you major stress, think about your ultimate goal. Yes, this research paper may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever written, but it will get you one step closer to your degree. Always keep that ultimate goal in the back of your mind, and don’t let one assignment or one course cause you too much stress.

5. Relax (or at least try to)

Do yoga, meditate or get a massage. Do whatever it is that makes you relax. Reward yourself and remember that you can get through any assignment. Managing stress is important when balancing work, school, family, friends etc. Learn how to best manage your stress level to be a successful online student.


Before your courses begin . . .

Make sure your computer and Internet are working properly and that you have all the required programs, such as Microsoft Word.

Supplies for taking notes are important. This may include a pen and notepad that are only used for school or a file on your desktop that keeps all your notes in Word documents.

Create a folder on your desktop for school-related documents and other files that you receive from professors. Be sure to back-up these files with a flash drive or some other method.

Ensure that you have received your textbooks (some courses may not require a text).

Check that your browser is ready. Login to Brightspace, choose "Learn How To Use Brightspace" in the top menu and select "System Check." This page will automatically detect your browser and provide you an immediate on-screen report. In the event that you have questions about Brightspace, contact the Brightspace Help Desk at (231) 439-6350 or




Log into Brightspace and explore your course or courses. Click through all of the links to get a feel for the design and layout of the course. Where is each unit located? Where is the professor’s contact information? It’s a good idea to keep the contact information in a place that doesn’t require internet access. Most importantly, locate, print, and READ the syllabus.

Introduce yourself to your instructor and classmates

Instructors will often ask you to introduce yourself to the class through a discussion board or other activity. Write a quick introduction that will help others get to know you and your personality. Have fun!


Begin your first assignments and readings

Get started! Find your first activities and assignments that are due the first week of class and begin. This allows you plenty of time to ask questions and become familiar with the course content. Remember, in an online course you are responsible for managing your time wisely.



Academic & Student Support

North Central provides online students access to the same support services on-campus students receive. For a complete listing of these services, which include advising, counseling, tutoring in most subject areas, career exploration, assistance for veterans, disability services, financial aid assistance, and more, please visit the Resources & Support page.

24/7 Distance Education Technical Support

If you're having technical problems with your online course, North Central has 24/7/365 support for online students. *Important: If you need assistance accessing course content, grades, or tests, please contact your instructor, as Tech Support cannot assist with those issues without direct authorization from the instructor.

Regular Business Hours

Monday - Friday
8:30 am to 5 pm

Melanie Leaver
Assistant Dean for Instructional Technology

Evening, Weekend, & Holiday Support
Weekdays after 5 pm
Weekends anytime