Online Student Success 30 Ways to Help Make it Happen

Online Student Success: 30 Ways to Help Make it Happen

Online student success starts with learners being self-motivated and organised.
Much of the energy and commitment must come from them.

But online educators also have an important role to play.

Even though we’re often not interacting with students directly in a face to face setting, there’s still plenty of ways in which we can positively influence student outcomes.

Here are 30 ideas you can apply today to increase your students’ chances of mastering new skills, learning new knowledge, and successfully completing your online course.

30 Ideas for Facilitating Online Student Success

1.  Find ways for students to draw on their own experiences.

This can work well in discussions and activities.
It increases engagement and underlines the relevance of the study.
If they can see the applicability of the new knowledge or skills, they’ll be more interested in participating.

2.  Provide feedback that’s fast, constructive, and specific.

Online students are usually waiting anxiously for their results.
Help them improve by giving quality feedback that offers specific guidance and reassurance.

3.  Meet the students where they are.

If the learners are new to academic work, point them to relevant resources and explain the requirements of the course.
And if they’re working at a higher level, ensure they’re properly challenged.

4.  Tailor your language to your learner demographic.

Every learner cohort is different.
Make sure your language is directed at a level they’ll understand.

5.  Be accessible.

Sometimes student success or failure can come down to feeling supported – or abandoned and isolated.
Make sure students know they can contact you with questions.



6.  Make your response times clear.

Ensure that students know how long you typically take to reply to emails, and return assignments.
That way, students are more likely to be patient rather than frustrated when responses are not received instantly.

7.  Set up some class rules for online discussions.

Explain that good manners, positivity and zero bullying are expected for all online interactions.
And warn students privately if they are not observing those rules.

8.  Help students submit work on time.

Set up automated assignment reminders in your learning management system to encourage submission of assessments by due dates.
Make sure all due dates are easy to find.

9.  Critique the assignment, not the student.

Focus your feedback on the work submitted, rather than the student.
Try using phrases such as: “The DISCUSSION needs to do this…” rather than “YOU needed to do this…”.

10.  Minimise technical barriers.

Make sure students know how and when to contact the IT Helpdesk.
This helps them make regular progress, rather than being delayed by technical glitches or access issues.


online student success - technical barriers


11.  Use humor – but carefully.

Sometimes humor can dispel tension and anxiety.
But never use it when marking student work – there’s no room to be funny when delivering grades.

12.  Establish your credibility early.

Make sure your organisational profile and email signature reflect your credentials and experience.
This sets up a relationship based on respect, and encourages students to appreciate your expertise.

13.  Set clear expectations on workload.

Explain the course requirements early in the semester.
Students need to know how much work they’ll be required to do, so they can manage their time accordingly.

14.  Communicate with extra clarity.

In an online learning environment, there are few-to-no visual cues.
So you need to make sure your messages are getting across clearly the first time to avoid confusion.

15.  Be positive wherever possible.

Encouragement and praise are very well received by online students who will often doubt their own progress and understanding.
Find opportunities to give positive reinforcement.


online student success - be positive


16.  Make your extension policy clear.

Many online students assume they’ve failed because they’ve missed a deadline – when they might have the option of another couple of days to submit.
Make sure they know whether extensions are available (and how to apply for one).

17.  Post the first message on the discussion boards.

Discussion boards and online forums can be surprisingly daunting to online learners, especially if they’re studying online for the first time.
Post the first message to break the ice and encourage participation.

18.  Email students relevant orientation information.

Does your organisation have a quick introductory video explaining how to use the learning management system?
Or one which outlines what to expect from the course?
Make sure students can access this reassuring information.

19.  Group feedback is better than no feedback.

If you’re struggling to find the time to respond to discussion board posts, post a group feedback message which provides overall encouragement and guidance.
This is far preferable to not engaging for weeks until you can find the time.

20.  Try to contact silent students.

Online students who are ‘stuck’ or have missed deadlines often disengage and stop responding.
Reach out again – by email or in a course-wide announcement that encourages students to contact you if they’re struggling.


online student success - silent students


21.  Be aware of your tone.

As much of your communication with students will be via email, pay particular attention to the tone of your messages.
A warm, yet professional tone will help to show you’re approachable and help is just an email away.

22.  Include a photo of yourself on the course page.

A friendly photo which shows you smiling will remind students that you’re human and willing to help.
Students will be less likely to see you as a faceless authority figure, and be brave enough to reach out when they have questions.

23.  Link the learning to a current event or internet meme.

A recent news story or internet phenomenon can help to get student attention.
The more relevant the learning, the more engagement you’ll get.

24.  Share alumni success stories.

Inspire your online students with the achievements and rewards of previous students.
This helps remind them of the benefits of completing the course.

25.  Let students know about available support services.

Many organisations have a wide range of support services available to online students – from guidance on writing and referencing, to mental and physical health resources.
Tell students how to access them.


online student success - access student support


26.  Make sure the IT Helpdesk contact details are easy to find.

A common challenge with online students is that they run into a technical glitch and can’t fix it themselves.
Make sure they know how and when to reach out for technical help so they can keep moving forward.

27.  Have clear grading rubrics – and share them with students.

When students know what they’ll be graded on, it’s easier for them to make sure they’ve covered all relevant points.
This makes success into a planning exercise rather than needing to guess where the marks are coming from.

28.  Consider different learning styles.

Research on this topic varies about the credibility of learning styles, but many students do seem to have a preference for different approaches to learning.
Try to incorporate some different resources and activities (text, audio, video, for example) to make sure that as many of your students can benefit as possible.

29.  Make your online classroom culturally sensitive.

Be aware of the different needs of diverse students, and use inclusive language and a range of culturally relevant resources.
Draw on different cultural examples of key topics, case studies and readings.

30.  Experiment with social media for added engagement and support.

A Facebook group for the course can encourage students to interact in a forum they’re familiar with.
And using Twitter/X to or LinkedIn to share resources or links to further reading can be another option for connecting students to professional uses for social media.


online student success - online media


Online student success is a team achievement.

The students need to put in the time and effort to fully engage with the course.
But as online educators, we can streamline the online learning process, and make it as engaging and rewarding as possible.

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