Tips to succeed in online courses at UW–Madison

Two uw-madison students with their computers studying on the Terrace

You’re used to living your life online, which might mean you jumped at the chance to take an online course during Summer Term. Good choice! Nearly all of our online students recommend taking an online class at UW–Madison.

However, if this is your first time taking a college-level course online, here is some advice from our own UW faculty:

Check your tech

Make sure your technology is ready to go. This is especially important if you’ll participate or submit work from different locations during Summer Term. Depending on the course, you might need to access podcasts, discussion forums, multimedia presentations, online journals and more. Check your connections, your laptop and your speakers/headphones in advance so you’ll be present and accounted for when it matters.

Be prepared to work

Just like when you’re sitting in a face-to-face class, you’re earning rigorous, challenging UW–Madison credit online. And online courses take the same amount of effort and energy. The flexibility of these courses may allow you to listen to lectures at your convenience, but you’ll still need time to do class readings, review what you learned and complete your assignments.

UW-Madison Summer Term student participates in class in a computer lab
Take advantage of the technology, but make sure everything works before your first class starts.

Make (and stick to) a timeline

Online courses give you the opportunity to practice stellar time management. Block your calendar daily for schoolwork and set reminders so you don’t forget. You might need to participate in course activities on specific days and times; get all of that on your calendar too. But take advantage of the ability to be online when your energy is high, or when you’ll have fewer distractions.

Don’t procrastinate

Online courses can teach you a valuable workplace skill: how to meet a far-away deadline that no one but you tracks until the project is due. If you know how to stay motivated, make daily progress and check in when you need support, you’ll impress your boss when you hit the job market after graduation.

Connect with your classmates

Most online courses require individual participation, whether through discussion forums or group projects. Take the opportunity to share your opinions and solicit insight from people in your class. Have a question? Ask it in a forum, so everyone can learn. Find a relevant link? Share it and say why you think it is interesting. Once again, take advantage of online benefits; you have plenty of time to make your comments thoughtful and thorough before you hit send.

Talk to your instructor

While you’re participating from wherever you are this summer, your professor wants to connect with you and leverage everything the technology offers. If they posted a video introduction, watch it. Maybe post one of your own. Do they have virtual office hours? Drop in to chat. Online doesn’t mean on your own.