Online Learning Success

How to Be a Successful Online Learner

1. Communicate Early and Often

The most important thing you can do is to communicate with your instructor.

  • First, and most importantly, read and pay close attention to your emails and course announcements.
  • No matter what the issue, keep your instructor informed of your learning situation and make sure you ask all the questions you have. By communicating regularly, you will give yourself the best chance to complete your course successfully and your instructor the best chance of helping you.
  • Be open to phone conversations and video conferencing. Sometimes a real-time conversation can save many emails.
  • Take advantage of your instructor’s virtual office hours. This is scheduled time for you as a student and instructors really want you to show up.

2. Use the Technology Effectively

  • All online courses at Virginia Western will require students to use a computer and have reliable access to the internet.
  • Students enrolled in online courses at Virginia Western are expected to have a laptop computer (or a desktop system with webcam and microphone) that meets the minimum specifications listed on this page.
  • ** Note: ** Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to computers and internet service on the Virginia Western campus will be limited. Options for Students Needing Internet Access.
  • There are a few core computer applications you will also need to use for most of your online classes at Virginia Western including, Canvas, Zoom, email, and Microsoft Office. See the Technology and Applications for Online Learning section below for information about access and support for these applications.

3. Actively Participate in Your Course and Manage Your Time Wisely

  • Expect to check your email and Canvas courses daily.
  • Stay up to date on your assignments and class activities. When learning online, it is easy to fall behind quickly.
  • When available, use the discussion boards in Canvas to interact with other students and your instructor.
  • If your course has regularly scheduled online meeting times, be prepared to attend live video sessions using the Zoom web conferencing tool and participate in class discussion and activities.

4. Build Your Skills as an Online Learner

  • Take the student online readiness survey  – This 47 question survey will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses better as you prepare to learn online. After completing the survey, students will receive a detailed report. The Best Feature, however, is the helpful information you receive in both text and video formats, such as learning/study tips, and advice on being a successful online learner.
  • Take the VWCC Online Student Orientation Course – This self-paced orientation course is designed to give you the information and tools you need to be successful in your online courses.  Send an email to to request entrance into this course.

5. Use the Support Services Available to You

All the student support services that are available on our campus are also available to online students. These resources exist to help you be a better student, so please take advantage of them. For a full list of our support services, and how to use them online, visit this page.

Technology and Applications for Online Learning

Canvas Learning Management System – In most cases this will be the main course delivery tool. Here you will be able to access the course syllabus, course materials, assignments, tests, discussion forums, and course calendars. Click here for Canvas help.

Zoom Web Conferencing – Many of your instructors may use Zoom to connect with you for live instruction sessions with your entire class or a one-on-one meeting. Click here for Zoom help.

Email – All Students have access to a VCCS Gmail account. Click here for more information.

MS Office software – VWCC provides access to a free subscription-based Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus for active students. Click here for download instructions.

More Student Technology Assistance and TutorialsClick here for a full list of assistance and tutorials available for students.