I’m an Online Student, Now What?

online student - main

Online learning is different from face-to-face learning. In particular, online learning places different demands on both students and faculty but it also offers different satisfactions.

The following should clarify the distinctions between online and face-to-face learning and help you begin your online courses successfully.

What online learning ISN’T…
Online learning is not just a way to avoid getting up for an 8:15 class or an easy way to get credit without doing much. While it is true that you do not physically attend class and that for the most part you are not bound to specific timeframes, it is not true that online courses are easier or that they take less time than face-to-face courses.

Online courses demand as much and perhaps even more from students as face-to-face courses do. In particular online learning demands a very high level of discipline simply to keep up. Online classes are easy to put off until later… and then for later not to come.

And given the short duration of courses, the pressure is even greater.

What online learning IS…
For students who are motivated and especially those who can manage their time well, online learning is wonderful. It allows you to schedule your learning around work and other obligations, or as some like to do, literally “go to class in your pajamas.” It allows you to learn at your own pace (within reason). And many students find that it allows them to enjoy a closer relationship with professors than just a quick “hello” and occasional question after class.

Most of all, online learning is REAL learning. Online courses contribute to a degree in the same way that face-to-face courses do. So why should you expect that they will be easier or take less time?

Student responsibilities (what is expected of you)

  • Time: The same amount that you would expect to put into a face-to-face course.
  • Diligence: Check in early and frequently.
    • The best advice is to stay current. Do not plan on doing everything on Wednesday or Sunday nights.
  • Communication: With the course content, your classmates and your instructor. Remember, in an online environment no one can see your quizzical look or your confusion, so if you have a question, please ask. You may communicate through:
    • Email
    • iChat
    • Phone
    • Discussion Board
  • Participation: In discussions, projects, and communications.
    • The single most important responsibility you have is to PARTICIPATE!!! Participation is the lifeblood of an online course. Discussions cannot take place if no one posts; group projects cannot be completed at the last minute.

Professor responsibilities (what you can expect from your instructor)

  • Availability: Instructors will be readily available to answer questions in person or online. Be sure to check office hours and contact information for your instructors.
  • Clarity: Just because you do not see your instructor on a regular basis is no reason to feel in limbo regarding course content. Just as in-class lectures supplement the textbook material, so will Wimba, video, and real-world samples provide greater detail and explanations to help you understand the material.
  • Manageability: Online courses can be frustrating if you feel that you do not know where you are or what you are supposed to do. Accordingly, the courses are set up to help you manage your responsibilities.
    • Dashboard: use the dashboard as a quick view on when activities are due and what grade weight is assigned.
    • Email: use the email icons to quickly send a message to your instructor.
    • Discussions: take advantage of the community discussion board to connect with your classmates and use them as a resource.

Now What?

Now that you are an online student, it is time to get engaged in your education. This is your journey and you make the choices that make it successful. Enjoy the process; everything we learn while having fun, we remember forever.

See you in the virtual classroom!


  • Nice article! I’m awaiting news about financial aid, and if all goes good I should be starting online very soon. Great insight, and it’s nice to see what the school expects from it’s instructors, as well as students.

    • Thanks Eric! Glad to see you are starting online – enjoy the journey!

  • Rick Olson

    Amy- You captured my experience as an online student! I was a July 2011 MS Grad of Internet Marketing and New Media. The work was challenging, but manageable with a little time management skills. I have stayed connected to peers in class through ichat/ skype /facebook.. there are too many methods of staying connected.

  • Being an online student is a huge commitment, one that I think is underestimated. Maybe online classes at other schools are easy, but Full Sail is no joke and I’m thankful for that. I need to know that the education I get online will be able to stand up after graduation to someone who went to school on a college campus when I’m competing with them for a job.

  • Anonymous

    im not an online student. im a student at pearl , ms. But, i want to go to full sail, so ……………………… how is it up there?and by the way, im going to be the BEST drummer EVER to touch down on full sail

  • Jason Phillips

    Just like to say, new to Full Sail and just seeing this blog and had to say there is some good information here. Thanks