Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Tips for success

All students face challenges, and successful students develop strategies and skills to overcome them. Online students face some unique challenges as a result of their different learning circumstances. We have collected a few tips to help you start developing your own success strategies. Be sure to check out our Online Learning Preview for some helpful tips about the habits of successful online students.

Tools for success

The College Success Guide on the library website offers information and tools to support online student success. The PCC Library has helped us to create a collection of resources to help students overcome challenges and identify tools to ensure success. This collection includes resources to help with:

  • time management
  • study skills
  • goal setting
  • motivation
  • learning preferences
  • technology skills

We hope that this collection will continue to grow, and students are encouraged to make use of student services like counseling, advising, and the guidance of their instructors as well in their pursuit of academic success.

Wisdom from experienced online students

We asked some experienced online students to share their best strategies and proven tips that led them to success in their online classes. Here’s what they had to say.

How to stay organized and manage your time

“I work ahead as much as possible, then when life happens I can absorb a lost week much more easily. Every morning before the daily chaos begins, I spend 10 minutes thinking about what I need to do that day and write it down. This 10 minutes easily saves me an hour or more later on. You don’t have to stick to the plan 100%, things can happen which force you to re-prioritize. This is still better than having no plan at all.

I also use a personal Google calendar with all the important assignment due dates, tests, etc. put onto it at the beginning of the course. This is visible to me wherever I am so I can keep track of longer term items. Use this to also plan out likely good times for completing the work as balanced with the rest of your life.”

“At the very start of each term I go through the syllabus and schedule for each class. I then make a spreadsheet that shows for each week exactly what will be due for each class. I create columns for reading (both book and ‘lecture’), tests, quizzes, discussions (and required replies), assignments and projects. I then enter the due date for each item; I use different colors for due dates that are further out than that week, and to indicate if tests are mid-terms or finals. As each item is completed I can cross it off on the master copy. I also use a whiteboard on which I copy the current week’s info, to make it more visible.”

“Time management, a printer, and working ahead. just because my courses are distance learning doesn’t mean I don’t need reminders in front of me. All of my classes have had a printable list of when each assignment was due. Having it in front of me was great. I sent aside certain blocks of time for my school work; aside from an emergency I didn’t deviate from it. I worked ahead whenever possible that way when I came across a hard assignment I wasn’t pressed for time.”

How to stay motivated and resist the temptation to procrastinate

“If I’ve made ‘a deal with myself’ to do the work that day and already thought about how to fit it in with everything else, it won’t get put off as easily. With that said, if there’s simply no way to cram it in that day and it’s very clear other things are more important, I can put it off as part of a larger plan and not feel bad about doing so.”

“I stay motivated in online classes the same way I do in physical classes — by showing up at regular times. Traditional class settings involve showing up to the same place at the same time(s) each week, so budget a block of time each week in the same location so you can think of it as class time in a classroom. With online classes I’ve taken previously, I logged in at about the same time each week in my room on my laptop. Doing so helped me get into the scholastic state of mind.”

“Just potentially missing deadlines and losing points. I’m a lifelong procrastinator, but the thought (or act) of turning things in late literally makes me sick to my stomach so I do make an effort… just knowing that the end was in sight as soon as I started kept me going.”

Technology tools and tricks that make life easier as an online student

“Setting alerts in your email client or cell phone, or making notes in a date book or calendar can help remind you when things are due since the instructor isn’t there to remind you each session. If you’re lucky, you’ll get an instructor that will remind everyone via email or a tool within the online environment, but since that isn’t a guarantee, it’s important to take your education into your own hands and make sure to remind yourself.”

“I love my iDevices. I’m currently taking Math 99, the Geogebra class, and it turns out there is an app for that, so portability is a saving grace for me because I get fidgety and need to change study areas quite a bit (my plan is to one day have a sweet home office to help offset some of this fidgety-ness). Other apps I like include: Post-It, Evernote, Gneo, Inspiration, Social media apps, (especially twitter). Music has also always been a staple for me when studying or doing anything that requires some concentration, so I love iTunes as well.”