Though it’s been many years since I completed my last degree, I can still feel the butterflies ... er, thrill I used to experience every year when the fall semester arrived.

Navigating the Online Classroom - Get your Online Degree at GranthamI loved the process of preparing to get back into the swing of learning, stocking up on classroom necessities like new markers, pencils and note pads to help get mentally engaged.

But how do you prepare for the challenge of attending school when the classroom, supplies and resources aren’t physical, but virtual? Especially if you’ve never had to deal with an Online Learning System (OLS) before?

I have experienced OLS as both an instructor and a student ... and, if you’ll pardon the expression, I’ve learned a thing or two (or eight) that will help you rock the classroom experience as you pursue your online degree program:

Speak Up

Engage in online discussions with your peers and share your thoughts in a respectful, constructive manner. If you have a question ... "raise your hand." Contact your instructor by email, chat or phone. Chances are, you aren’t the only one who wants to know. Your instructor will welcome the opportunity to clear up any confusion.

Good communication is crucial to your success online.

Learn the System

Many degree programs offer tutorials for learning the logistics of the online classroom. Take advantage of orientations and training modules whenever possible and make a special note of where you can locate great resources like online libraries.

An OLS is typically intuitive - so go ahead and explore.

Read Up

Read your syllabus, your instructor’s bio, any and all course announcements, discussion forums and, of course, assigned readings. Reading up will help you to be prepared, even if due dates and assignments change.

OLS classrooms often offer calendars to track important dates - use one.

Use the System

Once you’ve found your way around the classroom and read up on what’s expected, it’s time to put it to work. Use the online libraries, forums and tech support whenever possible. Know who to contact if you have technical issues and always keep your instructor posted with your status if you’ll be late with an assignment for tech reasons.

Let the system work for you - the OLS, that is.


A regular login routine is an excellent habit to form and ensures you won’t miss important updates or helpful discussion forums from your peers.

Login at least once a day, even if you don’t have an assignment due.

Build Your Community

Every class has leaders - students who share resources and helpful links readily, respond to their peers in discussion and pose thoughtful questions. Your online learning community will only be as strong as the effort you invest in it.

Be a leader

Set Up Shop

Where do you work best? How do you work best? To be successful, you’ll need to get organized ... choose an environment conducive to learning ... and plan for contingencies. Scheduling your education into your week will help you prioritize - and it will help you manage your work-life balance.

Find your comfort zone.

Ask For and Accept Help

Every university has a variety of support services to include academic advisors, research librarians and classmates. Commit to using all of these resources to enhance your work.

Your school wants to help you succeed - let them show you how.

Wondering if an online degree program is right for you? Could it give your career a boost? Where would you find time to study? What kind of resources would you be able to use to help you be successful? What questions aren't you asking that you really need to ask?