How Instructors Can Help Students Succeed In Online Courses

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: December 8, 2021

Online courses can be a great way for students to learn, but they are not always as successful as traditional classes for some students.

As a counsellor, I have advised many students as they worked toward degrees using both traditional and online courses. This experience gives me a wealth of knowledge to share with scholars who are looking into online classes for the first time and are a little concerned.

However, it is important to know that there are many ways that students can be more successful in their online courses. In this article, we will look at tips for success.

How Seeking Help From the Instructor Can Help a Student Succeed In an Online Course

Even though you are not making regular physical contact with your instructor, it is important to establish rapport with them.

The best way for students to do this is by engaging in online discussions and communicating through email or other means outside the classroom.

Online Communication

A professor talking in front of a laptop

Most online professors look at their class' message board regularly throughout the day.

This way, they can see who is actively engaged in the class and who looks like they may be struggling.

If a student engages in an online discussion, the instructor will provide feedback on the message board. This helps the student know if their understanding of the subject is adequate or if they need extra help.

Knowing this information before homework is due, or exams are taken can help students get the assistance they need before getting grades in the class.

Direct Communication

It can also be helpful for students to communicate directly with their online professor through email or any other means outside of class.

This shows that a student is interested in what they are learning, which will encourage the instructor to help them succeed.

“He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.”  - Dante Alighieri, author

This can also be a good way for students to get help from their instructor and learn how they are performing. Finding out if you are having grade difficulties early can make all the difference in your ability to recover or not.

Additionally, if the instructor sees that you are interested in their class by your reaching out to them, they may be more likely to go out of their way to give you assistance.

How Can Professors Help Students Succeed In an Online Course?

A professor talking to a young student through online class

Of course, it is not just about the student seeking help from the instructor.

The best professors can do much to help students succeed in an online course.

They do this by making themselves available for communication outside of the class, creating a sense of community within the group and building their own expertise, so that they are able to provide relevant feedback on student performance.

Effective Connection

Inserting ethernet cable to a wi-fi modem

The best instructors understand that for communication to be successful, they need to be available outside of the classroom.

That is why most professors keep office hours whenever they hold an online course.

Office hours are the best time to go over anything that has come up in class and ask for help with assignments, grading questions, or feedback on a paper.

“Any good teacher knows how important it is to connect with students…” – Adora Svitak, writer

A professor may also be available by chat, text, or messaging during designated times of day when they would normally have office hours, so students can get quick responses while still working uninterrupted.

The professor may also set up an online forum where students can post questions that other classmates or the instructor can answer, which is great for those who need help but don't want one-on-one time with their teacher.

Community Building

Talking with different peers

Another way professors can help students succeed in online courses is by fostering a community within the class [1].

When instructors create a community online, it helps students feel more connected to one another and creates a sense of belonging that can otherwise be lacking in the distance learning setting.

To do this, the professor may start by having students introduce themselves during the first week or two of class, so everyone knows who they're working with.

But how do you do that in an online community?

Usually, there is an online message board for students to post questions, chat, and share files. And this is where students are generally asked to post an introductory message early in a class.

To further build community, many professors give assignments for students to complete together as group projects. This forces students to work as a team and, in doing so, helps the group succeed as a whole.

In fact, many students say that they learn more from each other during these group assignments than they do from the professor.

How Seeking Help From Other Sources Can Help a Student Succeed In an Online Course

A classmate in a virtual meeting

Professors are an outstanding source of help for students in online classes, but they certainly aren't the only source. A student can also look to other resources to help them succeed in online courses.

Some universities offer tutoring services, even for their online students. You can also seek help from other sources, such as online courses offered by different universities and colleges.

Of course, one of the best resources for help is via a classmate who is taking the same course. Collaborating with a colleague can lead to breakthroughs of understanding that you just cannot get from a book.

Most online classes have some sort of message board to encourage communication between students. If available, you should certainly engage with other students and their posts.

Posting your own thoughts, asking for help from others, or even just having a conversation in the online forum will all go a long way towards helping you succeed.

Further, you can go to free online classes to get lectures from a different perspective [2].

In short, there are many ways to get help with an online course, and the professor is only one of many resources that are out there to help an online student succeed.

So don't ever give up.

Conclusion - What Advice Can I Give an Online Peer Regarding an Online Course?

The best advice to give anyone about online courses is to communicate - both well and frequently.

You can succeed in your online education, but it takes genuine effort to interact with your professors and other students.

Online classes are not harder than traditional courses, but they do require more work to make connections.

But, if you use all the resources at your disposal, you will find success.


  1. https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/online-student-engagement/how-to-make-your-online-students-feel-connected/
  2. https://www.lifewire.com/educational-websites-for-taking-online-courses-4072166

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