Become an online learning pro: Top tips & tricks from experienced instructors

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the freedom and flexibility of online learning? You're not alone! In this article, we share top tips from seasoned instructors on how to make the most out of your online course, no matter your experience level.

Taking an online course can be an exciting experience . . . or a frustrating one. 

As an online student, you may have far more freedom in your learning than you’ve had in your face-to-face courses. 

In an asynchronous online setting, you get to choose when you work. You can work during the school day if that’s best for you, or you can choose to work during the evenings or weekends, if you’d prefer. 

You get to set your pace, going through the lesson material at the speed you need. 

With so many decisions about your learning in your own hands, online learning can also feel overwhelming. 

You might worry about getting the help you need when you need it, or what to do if you don’t understand the material. If you get behind, who’s there to help you make it through?

Whether you’re new to online learning or an old pro, use these handy tips from Michigan Virtual instructors David Milne and William Springer to get the most out of your online course. 

Tips for what to do when you first log in to your online course

  • Check for any messages or course announcements. Teachers often communicate with the whole class through course announcements. They might give advice on upcoming assignments or share extra information on a lesson. Or, they might share a fun poll or Padlet to help you get to know other students in your class. 
  • Check to see if work you’ve submitted has been graded. If so, view the feedback the teacher left. This feedback is essential in the learning process! Your teacher may have told you what you’re doing well and what you still need to work on.
  • Warm up by looking over the material you covered when you last logged in. This warm-up helps get you ready to learn more and make connections to what you’ve learned already.

Tips for working through your online lessons

  • Start where you left off, and move forward in order. Your course likely builds on material learned as the course progresses. Skipping around may cause you to miss important information, assignments, or tests. 
  • Check your understanding as you work through a lesson. After each section, can you sum up the major points? If there are practice questions, give them a try. If you get any questions wrong, be sure to understand why before moving on. 
  • Review the unit goals. Can you easily complete the objectives listed there? If so, you’re ready for the assessments. 
  • Stay on pace. Even though you have a lot of freedom when deciding when or how to work, it can become overwhelming quickly if you get behind. Print your pacing guide and check off each completed activity. 

Tips for before you log off

  • Review what you’ve learned. Do you have any questions about the material? Now is the best time to message your instructor to ask for clarification or even schedule a meeting if you need further help understanding the content.
  • Check out that pacing guide again. What still needs to be completed? Make a plan for what you’ll do next. 

Other tips for success

  • Don’t rush through the work. You might be tempted to take shortcuts, but you will save time in the long run by giving your best effort each time you work.
  • Log in regularly. Even though you have the freedom to choose when and where you work, if you take too long of a break, you will likely forget what you’ve learned and struggle to catch up. 
  • If you’ve fallen behind, reach out to your instructor right away. Your instructor can help you make a plan to get back on track. 

Finally, remember that your online instructor is there to help you! Online instructors are real teachers who put students first and are excited about your success. They are thrilled when you connect with them. 

Put these tips into action, and enjoy the success you find in the online classroom.

If you’re interested in taking your online learning to the next level, consider exploring the wide range of online courses offered by Michigan Virtual. With a wide variety of options for K-12 students, you’re sure to find a course that aligns with your interests and goals. 
From core academic subjects to unique electives, Michigan Virtual provides high-quality, interactive, and engaging online learning experiences taught by Michigan-certified teachers trained in effective online teaching practices.

To learn more and see the complete list of course offerings, visit

Picture of Andrea McKay

Andrea McKay

As an educational leader and learner, Andrea has taught in many environments - face-to-face, blended/hybrid, and fully online. Andrea currently serves as the Director of Instruction, a position that allows her to support and empower an incredible team of teachers who teach online students all over Michigan. Andrea is inspired to work for a non-profit organization where so many employees are impassioned to create positive change in learning and education. One of her key values is ‘making a difference,’ and Michigan Virtual has given her the opportunity to do so for teachers and students around the state.

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