5 tips for online learners

The COVID-19 pandemic drove more students than ever online. Here’s some pointers on how to adapt.

By Jamie Harmon

Knightly News Reporter


Going back to school online during a pandemic – or anytime – can be scary and unknown, but once achieved, it can offer great results.

Attending college classes online allows students the convenience of learning at their own pace with an asynchronous education.

Blond woman working on laptop outside
Physical therapy assistant major Keira Shank prepares for a final exam. Shank took advantage of a sunny day and accessed her course material through her laptop while sitting at a table on the ATEC patio. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi

During a pandemic, online education allows students the ability to continue their education without having to step foot in a classroom.

Attending class online can differ slightly from the traditional educational journey but is also very similar.

Using these five tips will help a student adjust to the online new college life.

Woman inside at laptop
Inside or outside — it doesn’t matter. Online learning provides flexibility. Tailor your study to your likes. Find a comfy air-conditioned spot, as business major Naomi Paulino did on a warm spring day. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi

Tip #1 – Have a working and reliable laptop, desktop computer, or iPad. Attending school online means you will be completing all your research and homework using a computer. The first thing required for online education is technology. If you are not able to afford a laptop or desktop computer, then check with your institution. Some schools offer loaner laptops or scholarships to purchase a computer through school. For example, at Central Penn College, students can rent a laptop for free weekly through the library.

Tip #2 – Reliable internet service. After you acquire the proper technology, you must have adequate Internet service. Because you are attending school online, you can do classwork at times best for you, so your internet service must be reliable for you to meet deadlines. If you are unable to find a reliable Internet provider, then check with your institution regarding locations on campus for students to access the Internet to complete schoolwork. Central Penn offers many spaces on campus for students to do schoolwork.

Tip #3 – Understand the Student Platform. Going to school online means you will be submitting assignments through a platform the school uses. Once enrolled, a student should become familiar with the platform to understand where, and how, to submit assignments. Some institutions will hold classes, or online tutorials, to explain and demonstrate the platform before classes start. It is important to attend and use the free student services to ensure success.

Tip #4 – Find, read, and understand the class syllabus. The syllabus is one of the most important sources of information presented in class. A student needs to read and understand what’s expected of him or her in the class. The syllabus provides an overview of how the class will continue, and what will be assigned each week. It also provides helpful information, such as professor contact data, professor office hours email addresses and phone numbers.

Tip #5 – Seek assistance. Remember, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at first. If you are having trouble adapting, or navigating your online education, seek help. First, reach out to the professor of the class because often he or she will help resolve issues. Get to know your professors, because you will continue to attend classes with them throughout your education. Institutions will offer services to help students navigate their way through their education. For example, Central Penn offers drop-in hours at The Learning Center, for tutoring. If a student is unsure about specifics of his or her education, or classes, the student can reach out to the institution’s advising or counseling department.

Harmon is Central Penn’s student retention coordinator and member of The Knightly News reporting staff.

Have a comment or a story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.edu. Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor

Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.