Common Mistakes to Avoid For Online Courses



My freshman year of college, I made a huge mistake–I enrolled in hybrid and fully online classes without any real foresight. I assumed that online learning would be simple for me since I’m a digital native. However, as I quickly learned online courses present a unique set of challenges.

Last month I wrote about the trials and tribulations of online learning in my College Puzzle article How to Prepare Yourself for Taking Online Classes. Now, in addition to sharing ways to prepare for online learning, I’d like to share some common mistakes to avoid regarding online learning endeavors.

While online learning allows for immense amounts of flexibility, it requires a lot of personal accountability. The following common mistakes for online college students should be avoided at all costs.

Lacking Foundational and Tech Knowledge

The first step to successful online learning is ensuring that you have the basics mastered.

Recently, a close family member of mine decided to finished their degree online after a couple of decades away from school. They made a common mistake that many older people finishing college are faced with: a lack of foundational computer skills.

It’s possible to thrive in online learning environments no matter what your age. Don’t get discouraged or upset if you feel out of the technological loop, there are many free courses designed to quickly get you up to speed!

You must be proficient at typing, emailing, online etiquette, and understanding the ins and outs of web forums and discussion boards. Also become absolutely confident with online research and learn how Google search works. Google Scholar will likely be your best friend some day!

These foundations skills are absolutely crucial, and learning them before going back will save you a lot of stress and headaches.

Related: Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Online Learning? by US News

Not Identifying Your Learning Style

Before you fully commit to online education, consider your learning style. Is this something you’ve never really thought about? If so, that’s fine, but you should at the very least familiarize yourself with the multitude of learning styles. Recognize how they may amplify your efforts or detract from online learning for you personally.

It’s a good idea to fully comprehend your learning style before signing up for online classes. There are many free resources that help with this. Here are a few that have been helpful to me in the past:

Overview of Learning Styles by

What’s Your Learning Style? Quiz by Education Planner

Student Self Assessment by Wayne State University

Working in a Bubble

At times, online education can create a bubble effect where you feel secluded or overly solitary. But just because you aren’t learning at a brick and mortar school doesn’t mean that you should feel closed-off.

It’s possible to engage with your peers through forums, social media, and other activities. Utilize this as much as possible because feeling isolated can oftentimes lead to depression or other mental illness. Burnout and procrastination are also common associated phenomenons.

Work from multiple locations if possible to mix up your study routine and if possible, plan visits to your University!

Not Critiquing Your Study Environment

You need to be looking at your study and test taking environments with a critical lense. Is it actually quiet enough where you study? Is the internet connection spotty? Are you actually comfortable where you’re at?

Simply put, if you aren’t comfortable your levels of success could plummet. You have to be alright with changing things up if they aren’t working. It’s important to learn how to navigate organizational change.

Sometimes the layout of your room or desk can greatly impact your success. Even something as simple as an uncomfortable office chair could be hurting you both physically and mentally. Recognize these situations that may backtrack your efforts and combat them.

Furthermore, make sure you aren’t overly cluttered or unorganized. Take pride in your workspace!

Failing to Speak Up When Struggling

Online learning can create communication barriers. It’s easier to bury your struggles when you don’t regularly meet face to face with your instructor and your peers.

In an article on the Chicago Tribune, Tamara Popovich, associate director of student services at ASU Online offers great advice for seeking educational assistance:

“Students are always hesitant to ask for help. They start to drown and they take drastic measures, or they don’t take measures at all. Either way, they end up making a mistake.”

“We don’t want them to fail miserably. There’s always a middle ground,” she adds. “Let’s rescue what we can, and then move forward from there.”

Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Outside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer

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