How To: Survive Online Courses


This guide was created to help students become familiar with their online learning environment. Every class will be different depending on how the instructor sets up the course. This guide is not intended to be an end all be all for everything online learning. These are more like tips and tricks as well as rules of thumb to help you succeed online. Students taking an on-campus course with an online portion will also benefit from this guide.

Blackboard Kung-Fu

Blackboard can be scary for students to use for the first time. Luckily, the ITS department has provided a good resource to get a student started using Blackboard.

  • Blackboard for Students

    The above link is a great resource to get started familiarizing yourself with Blackboard. Do not feel you have know everything on the page. You can start with First Day Access.

First Day Access

Do not feel you have to perform these in any particular order.

  • Begin to navigate Blackboard. The left hand side contains links to the main areas that the professor has provided.

  • Usually, there will be more than one location

  • The syllabus can change throughout the semester. Knowing where to look so you can update yourself will help you stay in the game.

  • This is the page the professor has set up to be the first location Blackboard takes you in the course. Normally, this is the Announcements page.

  • The discussion forums are used so the professor can ask open ended questions and so students can discuss topics of interest.

  • Once you have located the course syllabus, read it. This is the framework by which most professors will structure their class around. Do know, however, that it is not a contract. The syllabus may change throughout the semester and it is your responsibility to remain updated.

Throughout the Semester

  • Check Blackboard daily. In the morning or in the evening just check it. Start with the announcements and move to the discussion boards.
  • Did I mention to read the announcements. Professors will post announcements throughout the semester about the goings on in the course.
  • Know who to contact. If your test kicked you out before you had a chance to finish then it is reasonable to contact the professor. If Blackboard had a sudden meltdown then someone from ITS helpdesk will be better suited.

Submitting Work

There is not really much to say here except do not hit the submit button until you have attached all your files that you want to submit. Check, double check, and triple check to make sure what you are uploading is the correct file or files to be submitted.

Discussion Board Etiquette

Discussion boards are so students can interact with other students. This is not where you should direct questions to the instructor unless the instructor has provided such a forum. If you have questions then you should email the professor. Again, these are at the discretion of the professor so read the syllabus.

  • Be respectful of your fellow peers
  • Do not post code or solutions. If you are helping someone with a problem try to guide them in the right direction and if they are still having difficulty then they can email the professor.
  • When given open ended questions provide your own answers. If you borrow from a source be sure to cite that source. Do not just make your post a copy/paste of information.
  • Put some thought into your posts. Usually, a paragraph will do.
  • When responding to a post don't put simple replies like "I like your post." Why do you like their post?
  • If you would like a forum in which to discuss topics then ask the professor. Some may and some may not.

Making Contact

Talking to your professor can be intimidating. You don't want to take up their time. You don't want to sound unintelligent. You aren't sure how to ask the question. Do not worry, we were all there at one point, too. Keep these in mind when opening a dialogue.

  • While response times will vary, allow up to 24 hours. Situations come up throughout the day in which a professor might not be able to respond right away.
  • Politely send the email again. If you have not heard back within the 24 hours then send the email again. Second time is usually a charm.
  • Limit the number of emails sent. If at all possible, write down your questions and at the end of the day send one email. Who knows, maybe you'll have it figured out by then.
    • The worst thing you can possibly do is send an email every 5 minutes. This does not show any professionalism.
  • Due to high volume of emails professors receive daily the response you receive may be short. If you need further assistance it is okay to ask. For best results understand that...
  • Not all questions are equal. Take a look at the following.
    • My code won't run. First, this is not even a question. Second, this tells the professor nothing about the problem you are having. Is it a syntax error? Is it a semantic error? Does the output not match with what you were expecting? Any other reason?
    • I am receiving the following exception: InputMismatchException and I have searched on Google and a site states that this happens when the wrong data type is typed in. I have tried changing my variable from an Integer to a String but now my code will not compile. What am I missing? This is much better. It explains what issues the student is struggling with, what they have tried, but most importantly that they know what the exception means. They even checked Google first which is okay because they are using it to understand the error.
    • If you don't provide enough information as to your situation you may be asked "What have you tried?". (Not affiliated with UIS)
  • Do not ask a homework question the day it is due unless you have opened prior dialogue. This shows poor academic integrity on your part.
  • Keep in mind that the professors are here to help you. Not to just give you the answer.
  • Proof read!!! Nutheng tels more ubout a person then bad speeling and simpl mis-takes that kuld of ben caugt bi a simpull proofread.

    If you have any suggestions you feel would help other students feel free to send your suggestions to: