Participate Fully in Online Courses

Overview of Engagement

Being actively engaged in your online course is critical to your success. Below are the top five tips for how to stay engaged in your online courses.

Tip 1: Communicate Effectively

Use the Inbox within Canvas to contact your instructor and classmates, and keep track of all course communication.

Tip 2: Track Course Progress

Use the Grades tool in Canvas to track your progress in courses.

Tip 3: Participate Online

Attendance may be monitored online by the instructor when you submit an assignment, take an online quiz, and/or participate in a required online discussion. Refer to your course syllabus for more information. Tip: Always check to see that your assignment has been submitted.

Tip 4: Manage Your Time

Complete your assignments on time. Every course assignment has specific due dates. Avoid procrastination and start work well in advance of the deadline. Do not put off assignments, studying, or projects until the last moment.

Tip 5: Take Time to Study

Spend the amount of time recommended in your syllabus studying the concepts covered in class. You will also need to have a good understanding of what types of strategies best help you learn, as well as the best place and time for you to study. 

Important Questions 

How Can You Be Successful in an Online Course?


You will use the Inbox in Canvas to contact your instructor and keep track of all communication inside of Canvas. Watch the communication video to learn more!

Communicating properly and effectively online is an issue many times overlooked in the struggle to complete assignments on time. However, it is essential to being successful online. Remember that a large percentage of face-to-face communication comes from the use of body language, tone of voice, facial gestures, etc. In the online environment, no one can see these clues, which makes it difficult to get certain points across.


These rules are meant to keep the environment positive and to help ensure that everyone can learn. Below are some guidelines for basic online etiquette.

  • Course Email and the Discussion Forum are to be used for class-related materials and communications only.
  • Always use polite language. In the online environment, jokes and sarcasm do not always come across as you intend them.
  • Do not use all capitals when composing emails and discussion postings.  This is the equivalent of shouting in person!
  • Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Never criticize or poke fun at anyone.
  • Show enthusiasm. You add to the energy when you share your ideas, ask questions, and offer feedback.

Course Progress

Your instructor use of the gradebook available in Canvas so you can keep track of your progress. Watch the gradebook video to learn more!


Attendance in online and hybrid courses will be monitored online by the instructor through the submission of an academic assignment, taking an online exam and/or the participation in a required online discussion. Refer to your course syllabus for more information.

Time Management

  1. Complete your assignments on time.
  2. Every course has specific due dates which include specific days and times for each assignment.
  3. Avoid procrastination and start work well in advance of the due date.
  4. Do not put assignments, studying or projects off until the last moment.

Study Time

Students will devote an appropriate amount of time each week to course assignments and material. Students will be expected to submit assignments, take exams/quizzes, participate in discussions, and review readings each week. Students can estimate that an 8-week course will require 15-20 hours per week for a three credit course, 10-12 hours per week for a two credit course, and 5-6 hours per week for a one credit course.

What are the Strategies for Success in Online Environment?

1: Set consistent blocks of time each week for each course

Students must take an active role during the learning process, be self-motivated and independent learners with time management skills. Every course has specific due dates. In many courses, assignments are due on a specific day each week. If you know that assignment for Sociology are due every Sunday by midnight, set some time aside Saturday morning. Schedule consistent, multi-hour blocks of time during that time and adhere rigidly to this schedule. The lack of regular class meetings is more reason to establish a consistent work schedule for yourself.

2: Ask for help early on with assignments

Read assignment directions as soon as your instructor posts them. If you see an area in which you are a little uncertain, go ahead and ask your instructor. They will be able to provide you with an answer much more quickly than if you had waited until the assignment was due and the instructor was trying to grade everyone’s submissions. Students who don’t get their questions answered and concerns addressed can quickly fall behind and find it very difficult to catch up. Moreover, developing a relationship with your instructor is essential for expanding your professional network and building a list of references to provide to prospective employers.

3: Engage with your classmates

When posting to a discussion forums add your own insights and questions to the discussion. The postings can be your opinions supplemented with credible back-up material such as relevant news article or scholarly publication you’ve come across. Grow your student network by sharing information about yourself, such as your career interests and other courses you’ve enjoyed, which encourages a vibrant student community.

4: Begin your work early

Never wait until the last minute. Read the directions carefully. There is nothing worse than completing an assignment only to discover that it has been done incorrectly. Read directions and grading criteria before beginning your work.

5: Remember that online classes vary greatly

Online courses can be structured in a variety of formats. Some online classes can rely largely on the discussion boards to foster student interaction and engagement. Others make heavier use of group projects, simulationsor individually-written papers. Today, online instructors are using a wide plethora of exciting technologies to enhance their instruction. There is nothing wrong with contacting the professor before the classes start to find out what you can expect. Think about how you learn best and determine if the course structure and material are a good fit for you.

6: Attend class

The online environment is primarily an asynchronous environment – it allows you the convenience of logging on whenever you have time. Take advantage of this and log-in during a good part of the day, like your lunch break. It is recommended that you access your courses daily to read email messages, read and respond to discussion postings, and keep up with course information.

Tip: Online courses offer a printable schedule to students. Print it out and put it near the computer. If you regularly use a calendar, highlight important dates.


How to Create a Positive Online Learning Environment?

Being successful in an online learning environment takes a lot of discipline and commitment. Online courses require students to follow a course schedule and complete weekly tasks and assignments. Therefore, online learning requires good time management and study skills. Here are a few tips to create a positive online learning environment.

Tip 1: Ensure that your room is conducive to learning.

Choose a bright and open space that can inspire and encourage you to accomplish what you need. Choose a quiet place to work without distractions from things like family, friends, TV, and computer games.

Tip 2: Learn good time management skills.

If you are taking an online course, it is especially important to learn good time management skills. You will not have the support of a face-to-face classroom to help you remember.

Tip 3: Complete the course requirements as outlined by your instructor in the course Syllabus.

Ensure that you understand course policies, responsibilities, grading system, and assigned projects. Make sure that you are able to complete every designated project and assignment on time.

Tip 4: Be able to communicate through writing.

In the online learning environment, nearly all communication is written. It is critical that you feel comfortable in expressing your thoughts in writing.

Tip 5: Make the most of online discussion forums.

Check for new discussion topics at the beginning of every week and post early. Put some thought behind your words. Include links to articles or other references that support your comments and opinions. Stay respectful at all times and take advantage of the many opportunities to connect with your fellow students.

Tip 6: Be willing to speak up if something is unclear.

An instructor doesn’t always know when a student has not understood something unless that student is willing to communicate.  It is expected that distance learners know how to follow the course schedule, utilize the Electronic Library Resources, navigate in the course and know how to use tools in Canvas. Some students have a difficult time understanding these tasks which is why communication is essential. Students should email the instructor to get a clear understanding of the task, if they don’t understand the directions.

Tip 7: Respect the opinion and background of your fellow students.

When learning online, you will interact with students who may have different backgrounds, opinions and values. Be open-minded and respectful.

Source: University of Illinois What makes a successful online student?
Source: British Columbia Institute of Technology The online learning environment

Academic Resources

Visit the Mines website for additional resources on time management, academic wellness, and many other topics.