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How to succeed in online learning

Monday, April 6, 2020

With Oklahoma State University classes transitioning to online delivery for the remainder of the spring semester, three strategies can help students finish strong.

Dr. Susan Stansberry, Oklahoma State University educational technology professor, encourages students to build personal study habits, identify behaviors for success and cultivate a good learning environment. In a digital learning environment, she encourages students to take ownership of their learning because research correlates self-regulated learning with student success in online learning.

“As teachers in an online environment, we need to help them gather the strategies to be successful,” Stansberry said.

Personal study habits

Before studying lecture notes, Stansberry says students should learn the online course layout. While all OSU classes are delivered through Canvas, each course may be laid out differently.

Additionally, students must be proactive in communicating when they are unable to find course content or when a lecture doesn’t make sense.

“When you’re in a face-to-face class, the instructor can take one look at your face and tell whether you’re understanding or not,” Stansberry said. “But in an online course, you have to communicate your level of understanding with the instructor in a different way.”

While online learning is more distanced, it also brings new opportunities. Students can pause lectures to search for additional materials related to the lecture topic, find practice quizzes related to course content and supplement instruction with additional reading.

“In online learning, we have such a good opportunity to add to the learning that’s being offered through the course,” Stansberry said. “The key is attributing success or failure to your own efforts rather than external factors.”

Personal behaviors

Stansberry believes taking personal responsibility is one of the most important factors in students’ online success.

“The learner has to decide it’s of value to me to finish this class strong,” Stansberry said. “They must say, ‘I’m going to manage my time, monitor my progress, evaluate how I’m doing.’”

Stansberry believes it is important for students to self-monitor.

“The key is attributing success or failure to your own efforts rather than some external factor,” Stansberry said. “Self-regulated learners do well online because they attribute their success and they take control and evaluate their own efforts. They make changes based on how things are going.”

Environmental factors

Even for online courses, Stansberry says learning environment is still important.

“Structure your space and place so you can focus best,” Stansberry said. “Not all of us learn best in complete quiet. Evaluating yourself and realizing what makes you successful as a learner is important.”

While students may feel isolated in online classes, Stansberry says there are still many opportunities to connect. In one of her own classes this spring, Stansberry initially designed only an asynchronous format, but her students asked for optional group meetings to maintain peer interactions so they could check in on one another and stay motivated.

Stansberry says great communication and self-regulated learning will make online learning a success in these unprecedented times, and she is already encouraged from her students’ feedback.

“A lot of students have told me they did not want to be an online learner, and they did not want to take an online class,” Stansberry said. “But now that they’ve gotten into it, they really like it.”

Until these students meet together for in-person classes again, they are using technology to their advantage and working hard to succeed.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brittany Bowman | 405-744-9347 |

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