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Intro to Online Gavilan

Lesson 7
Study Skills

Strategies for Success

Review the helpful hints provided below to make your distance course experience the best it can be.

  • Stay current with each week's assignments; log in frequently and dedicate a certain amount of time each week to the class.
  • Use the communication features provided to interact with your fellow students and instructor.
  • Post any questions you may have to the discussion forum.
  • Make sure you have a syllabus for the course you are taking. Read it carefully; it should answer most of the questions you have about the course.
  • Textbooks and other course materials may be purchased at the Gavilan College Bookstore. We recommend that you file your notes and any materials mailed to you during the course.
  • Preview your textbooks by scanning the table of contents, major chapter headings and subheadings.

Developing a Study Plan

  • Plan to complete your textbook reading assignments before the lessons. Develop a regular schedule for completing these assignments.
  • Keep good notes for each unit or topic. By doing this, you will be able to review for examinations without "cramming" everything in at the last minute.

Recruiting a Group of Study Partners

  • Identify one or more classmates with whom you can review assignments, discuss course information, and prepare for examinations. Make arrangements to study together by phone, in person, by email or chat.
  • Use the instructor's review questions to discuss general concepts of the course. Develop a vocabulary list of important terms. Write definitions in your own words (especially terms you do not fully understand) and review them on a regular basis.
  • Look for ways to relate and apply the knowledge you are gaining. Share your experiences with your study partner.

Asking For Help If You Need It

  • This is probably the most important piece of advice here. In an online course, nobody can see you if you get stuck or have problems. It's up to you to get help. Contact the distance education coordinator ( or 408 848 4885) if you have technical problems. Contact your instructor when you have questions about course content. Instructors are also available by phone during the hours indicated in your syllabus, or you may make an appointment for an on-campus meeting.
  • Attend on-campus discussion sessions, if they are offered for your course. These sessions give you an opportunity to have your questions answered and to interact with the instructor and your fellow students. Exam study sessions are particularly valuable . Remember, in order to participate in a discussion session, you must come prepared to the session. Prepare written responses to the study questions provided by your instructor.

Tips and Suggestions

The following tips should make your web-based experience smoother.

  • Schedule time to log on to the course site and study--REGULARLY! To promote success, reduce procrastination, and eliminate frustration, schedule regular study time for the course, when you are most efficient and when it is most convenient. You MUST log on several times a week!

  • Take advantage of "any time, anywhere" learning! You do not have to respond to discussion forum questions on the spot. Reflect on the questions and type your responses in your word processor. This allows you to articulate your responses before posting them, without worrying about being "dropped" by your internet service provider. Also, unlike in traditional classes where you have to listen to everyone's comments, in a web-based course, you may choose to read and react only to those comments that intrigue you and are relevant to your learning.

  • Be extra cautious, kind, and sensitive! The online environment offers a level playing field. Factors such as appearance, age, disabilities, race, etc. are not visible. However, because of the lack of body language, students and teachers may offend each other, often without intending to do so. Be polite and sensitive when replying to posted comments. Don't "say" anything online that you would not tell to someone's face.

  • Don't stay lost and confused! When students get overwhelmed, they drop. Often the mode of learning is blamed, when in fact they didn't ask for help when they were lost or confused. If you are unclear about something, it is very likely that others in the course have the same question. Send an email message or call your instructor, or post a message in the discussion forum. Your instructors are very interested in your success! If your problems are technical (you can't log in, you can't attach an assignment), contact the distance education coordinator ( or 408 848 4885).

  • Go beyond the call of duty! Take advantage of the links to supplementary materials that your instructor has gathered for you. They will give you a more in-depth analysis of the course content.

  • Stay in touch! Stay "connected" with the course, your instructor, and your classmates. Don't allow yourself to fall behind. Stay involved.

Getting Organized

Consider getting a three-ring binder to print and organize the units as you go. This can serve as your user guide beyond the course. You may also print and use the Assignments as your check-off list to monitor your progress.

Dialogue and exchange is a major component of web-based courses. Daily participation is expected. Individuals who fail to log on regularly and show progress may be dropped from the course.

The "due dates" are established to help you pace yourself. You are expected to complete assignments as they are due.

Email Basics

There are a number of articles and online tutorials with good suggestions for using email effectively.

Effective Email - How to communicate powerfully by email

eMail Tutorial

Netiquette Guidelines

Just as there is regular classroom etiquette (for example, raising your hand with a question), there are also some rules of etiquette for participating in a web-based course. There are some commonly accepted principles of behavior for proper communication on the Internet. These are common sense rules on how to behave online.

  • Use capital and lower-case letters as you would when writing on paper. Using ALL CAPS indicates that you are shouting when done in email or other web-based communication.

  • You can use characters which express human emotions. Examples include:
    Happy/Joking .. :-)
    Sad .. :-(
    A smile & a wink .. ;-)

  • Critique ideas, not the person. Personal attacks online are called "flames" or "flaming". If you attack other students, your instructor may remove you from the class.

  • Respect the privacy of others. Do not forward emails sent to you without asking permission. Do not forward emails to your instructor or fellow classmates that are not relevant to the course.

  • Assume that others are as sensitive as you, or more so. The guiding principles are the three "BCs":
    Be Constructive
    Be Concise
    Be Clear

  • Begin with something positive. Example: "I like how you explained so simply something that was so complex."

  • Provide feedback on what they requested. Example: "I have a suggestion about a paragraph you asked about. Make the second sentence the first because it is livelier."

  • Be specific. Don't use general negative comments. Example: "I didn't understand what you meant by ... " Instead of "I don't get your paper and it doesn't make sense."

  • Don't be personal. Example: "Section 4 doesn't follow from section 3. I think it needs a transition sentence or two between them to make your meaning clear." Instead of "I don't like how your answers jump from topic to topic. It's a jumble."

  • Begin with an "I" statement. Express how you feel or think. Example: "I feel confused when I read this paragraph. It would help me understand it better if it was separated into two paragraphs." Instead of: "This is confusing."

Netiquette Guidelines

More Netiquette


The ETUDES Forum function is great for working with other students in your online class. Posting messages to a discussion topic allows you to read, review and respond to messages posted by others in your class. While not all instructor include online collaboration in their classes, many do. To participate effectively in online collaboration, you need to read the group discussion postings regularly. Post questions by using the Reply feature, if there is something that you want to know more about. Just like you would listen, speak and ask questions in a face-to-face discussion, you can do the same online in the ETUDES Forum


This orientation was developed by Vivian Sinou as part of a grant from the Chancellor's Office, CA, 1999-00, and was adapted for Foothill College. The pages were designed with ideas from Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction, Illinois Online Network, and input from members of the California Community College Distance Learning Consortium.

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Last updated on June 17, 2006