While online programs are convenient and often more affordable than their residential counterparts, you should not assume they’re going to be easier than the traditional classroom. Students are expected to put in as much effort as they would if they were taking on-campus classes. My wife, Sue, recently took an online class that gave her a certification in nutrition. She worked very hard at it and had a great learning experience. I think two of the keys to her success were that she was interested in learning, and she worked steadily at it, paying close attention to the deadlines.

With so many new people drawn to online programs, I asked faculty and staff at HBU if they had any tips for success. I hope these practical answers help as you pursue your degree. Digital coursework is achievable and a wonderful option if you are fully committed.

As with any class, know your assignments and due dates.

Use a planner! Either paper or an electronic planner will work. Print off your syllabus and put all major assignments/due dates in your planner. – Cassie Sorrell, Campus Recreation

Do not fall behind with assignments. Meet deadlines. READ the syllabus and assignment descriptions. – Dr. Lesli Fridge, Assistant Professor of Education, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences (CoEBS)

Organization propels both progress and success. Daily organizational structure and strong study skills are fundamental elements to online learning achievement!  Many of our students have found that keeping a physical binder to take notes while studying lessons is an excellent way to increase learning. The notes also provide a convenient means for review before taking quizzes or tests and allows you to review when you are away from the computer or have lost access due to technical difficulty. There is no shortcut to learning, but academic success is at the end of the path marked by order and perseverance. – Dr. Jay Spencer, Associate Vice President for Digital/Online Operations, Pampell Online Division

Our professors emphasized the importance of organization in Tips for Being a Successful College Freshman. While that blog was meant for residential freshmen, many of the tips are also important for online students.

Stay attentive to your online class.

Log in EVERY DAY!! See if there are any new announcements, etc. – Dr. Karen Frederick, Program Coordinator for M.Ed. in Counselor Education, CoEBS

Make every effort to remain engaged in your classes throughout the week by actively participating in discussion forums and working little by little each day towards the completion of your assignments. – Dr. Katie Alaniz, Director of Online Programs, CoEBS

Active, engaged students tend to be successful students. – Dr. David J. Davis, Assistant Professor of History, School of Humanities

Schedule distraction-free time for your schoolwork.

You need to schedule time for your online course. It may look convenient and often is, but students sometimes don’t understand how much day-to-day work is involved in an online course. If you fall behind, it is difficult to catch up. So schedule in time every day to work on your course. – Dr. Matt Boyleston, Program Coordinator for Writing, School of Fine Arts

Set aside at least 1 hour of distraction-free study each day for every course. – Dr. David J. Davis

Be disciplined – set a schedule to study and complete assignments on each online course just as you would for an in-person class. Keep a calendar and set goals each week. When working on your online assignments, avoid any distractions (TV, social media) so that you can focus on your schoolwork. – Dr. Lisa Ellis, Assistant Professor of Biology, College of Science and Mathematics

Make your own “class schedule.” Set aside time each day and dedicate that time only to your course. – Cassie Sorrell

Submit assignments early.

If at all possible, work ahead and submit early! This way, your professors will have more than enough time to offer additional support, should you find yourself struggling at any point throughout each week. – Dr. Katie Alaniz

We all know how tempting it can be to put it off… ‘just worry about it tomorrow,’ or ‘just watch one more episode’ of the new season of your favorite show. However, procrastination is often the most assured way to overwhelm yourself, stress yourself out, and slow down your momentum. Set specific times to complete coursework so that you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. It feels much better to complete the work in advance rather than 2 minutes before the deadline! – Callie Smith, Pampell Online Division

Respect and utilize your fellow classmates.

There is much diversity amongst your online classmates – be respectful of opinions that don’t match your own. Be a listener and a learner. – Dr. Karen Frederick

Rest assured that even though you may not regularly see your professors and classmates face-to-face, you are surrounded by an incredible community of online learners who are ready to offer support. Reach out with questions, concerns, and ideas, and know that your thoughts are valued by your professors and classmates. – Dr. Katie Alaniz

As always, do the work with excellence.

Do the work and do it to the best of your ability. – Dr. Karen Frederick

Be an active learner. Take time to take careful notes, memorize important terms and definitions, and to understand facts and concepts from the lessons. Remember, you will use what you learn today as the foundation for what you will learn tomorrow. – Dr. Jay Spencer


Houston Baptist University recently expanded our online offerings with the HBU Pinky Pampell Online Division. We now offer 8 undergraduate programs and 13 graduate programs fully online.

It’s important to find the right online program for what you are hoping to accomplish. I’d love for you to explore our digital offerings at HBUOnline.com. You can also follow the HBU Pampell Online Division on Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you to the Houston Baptist University faculty and staff who contributed to this blog.

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Blog edited by Joannah Buffington

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