Tips for Success

How to be a Successful Online Student

Young man studying at laptop

Your online program will lead you to the same respected Creighton degree as an on-campus student, but there are a few skills that are especially important in the online classroom, including:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Personal skills
  • Time management skills

Below is some advice that has helped many online students succeed.

Personal Skills

Written Communication

In an online class, the majority of the communication is written. You should be comfortable with written directions and with writing to freely express your thoughts.

Expectations for the Course

Your online course will be just as rigorous as it would be in a classroom setting. It may even require more time and commitment. Taking courses online is a convenient way to earn your degree—but not an easier way.

Self-Motivation and Self-Discipline

Online learning provides flexibility, and with that comes more responsibility. To be successful, you must have good motivation and self-discipline to keep up with the course and complete assignments on time.

Open to Communicating about Yourself

You will need to be willing to actively and openly participate in your online courses. This means interacting with classmates and your instructor through discussion groups, email, chat rooms and web conferencing.

Computer Skills

In order to complete your course successfully, you will need a basic level of computer knowledge (don’t worry, you can call our IT service desk 24/7 for help troubleshooting).

You should have a working ability to:

  • Create, save, copy, move and manage files and directories on a computer
  • Run applications on a computer when needed for a course
  • Use a browser, e.g. Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Internet Explorer, including navigational tools such as the “Back” button, bookmarks/favorites, etc.
  • Use a search engine to conduct research on the Internet
  • Send and receive email
  • Send and receive a file attachment from email
  • Paste text into an email message (e.g. from a word processor)
  • Describe any problems accurately to the IT service desk (e.g. write down or take a screenshot of error messages)

Time Management

You should commit to a minimum of 10 hours per week for each course, depending upon your program. You should plan to spend as much time, if not more, for your online course as you would for a face-to-face course. Here are some tips to help you balance your coursework with your other commitments:

Log in to your course on BlueLine every day.

You may not have an assignment every day, but checking in and reading any new posts will keep you connected to the course, the instructor and the other students in your learning community.

Set up and stick to a study schedule.

This should be the time that you will only work on your courses. Divide the time up throughout the week so you don’t try to do everything at the last minute. Avoid distractions such as email, social networks, and phone and family activities during your study time.

Create a calendar of all due dates.

Take advantage of your favorite calendar app, or set up a dry erase calendar on the wall in your study area. A calendar will help you keep track of your academic and personal commitments.

Getting Started with Your Course

After registering and as the term begins, follow these steps to make a good start. 

Log In

Your first step is to log into BlueLine to check that your NetID works and to find resources you will need.

Read the Syllabus

The syllabus in your course will contain all the information you need for your class. This may include the course description, the outcomes, course requirements, assignments, tests, media and technology needs, and the instructor’s contact information.

Set up a Workspace

Find a space that is distraction-free and private where you can study. This is a space where you can close the door, leave your books and papers, and work undisturbed. If there isn’t a room for this, find a place or container to store your materials. Let others know that this is your study time.


Once you have logged in and introduced yourself to your instructor and classmates, actively participate in your course throughout the term. Give your ideas about topics you are reading and discussing. Read your classmates’ posts, too!


You have a certain amount of anonymity in the online environment, which makes it easier to use your voice in discussions. When doing so, be polite and respectful. Even though you can’t see your classmates, remember to treat them just as you would in person.


You will have various forms of assignments in your courses. Complete all assignments on time. Here are a few other pointers related to assignments:

  • Read the directions carefully and speak up if you do not understand them (chances are, you’re not the only one with a question). Send an email to your instructor or others in your course to see if they are experiencing any difficulties understanding the assignment.
  • Take notes as you read your assignments. Be sure to use your word processor for all assignments and then post them to BlueLine. Download and back up articles, information and assignments from your courses in organized files to reference later.
  • Research and Writing Assignment Help: If you need to do research, be sure to use the Creighton Libraries. The online student writing center, found in your BlueLine course – “Group: Online Tutoring” – can help with writing assignments.
  • Know multi-media: Your online classes will use various interactive features such as forums, video conferencing, message boards, Google tools, and podcasts. Knowing how to use these will be essential to your success. You’ll get an intro to some of these tools during your orientation.

Tips compiled by staff of the Teaching and Learning Center.