How to Get the Most Out of Distance Learning: 5 Tips for Success When Learning Online

By Ashford University Staff

woman using laptop on table

Starting, or getting back to, your college career is a very exciting experience. You are navigating a personal adventure of scholastic knowledge and personal self-discovery. It is an opportunity to learn about subjects you have a deep passion for while discovering new topics of interest that you otherwise may never have been aware. Yes, the life of a college student is full of excitement and may even seem a bit overwhelming at times, but you are dedicated in your pursuit of that goal you have dreamed about since you were a child: a degree!
Learning in both a physical classroom and virtual online classroom have very similar recipes for success. However, taking classes within an online environment comes with many benefits as well as its own set of challenges. Below are 5 tips that will help you succeed while learning online at Ashford University. 

1.    Make sure your computer gear is up to snuff
It might seem like common sense, but you don’t want to begin an online course just to find out that your computer hardware is not working correctly. Whether you’re connecting from a desktop, laptop or handheld device, be sure you have a solid internet connection. With many courses leveraging videos to assist with the learning process, you’ll want to ensure your hardware can handle the demands. And with online courses often moving at a quicker pace than previous educational settings, you don’t want to be well into your course when you have to deal with technical issues that are not often seen as a sufficient reason for submitting work late. Be sure to review the technology requirements for Ashford University.

2.    Find “protected space” for your course time
This item can be a tough one if education feels like a conflict. A great practice is to involve your family or friends in the planning process. Have conversations about what it means for you to pursue your degree. How might this change your relationships or roles? Students have found it helpful to carve out a specific block a few times a week that can be designated as “Protected Learning Time.” A part of this time can include making sure you have space that is free from distractions or interruptions. Try to identify a location that also allows you to close a door when you need to. When possible, avoid cell phones, TV, and interruptions from others at home. If that space is not available at home, consider a local library or other quiet space that may also offer a strong Wi-Fi network. 

3.    Reach out to your instructors often
At the start of your online course, after reviewing the course syllabus and familiarizing yourself with the course platform, be sure to reach out to your instructors to help answer any questions that you have. You will find that as you move along through your college career, writing styles and requirements differ, and coordinating with your instructor early will help you to understand and succeed in the course. Instructors are there to help you throughout the course, however, it is important that you find answers independently as well. You are a college student after all.

4.    Find and use school resources frequently
Ashford has a wealth of online resources available that you can use as much as you need. For example, you can get assistance at the Ashford University Writing Center with the Paper Review tool if you need to brush up on your writing skills. Additionally, the library has a huge amount of information and resources that you would not commonly find on the web, and they are available to all students. It is important to your success that you become familiar with these school resources and tools early on as they are powerful arrows in your scholastic quiver of knowledge. So, gear up with the best ammo at your fingertips!

5.    Stay organized and keep a schedule
Online courses are usually taught at a quicker pace than conventional in-classroom learning environments, so it’s important that you keep your assignment due dates and other various tasks organized and “mapped out” ahead of time. When you start a new course, take a look at the syllabus and the respective due dates for the assignments. Then use tools like Outlook Calendar, which comes free with your Microsoft 365 subscription, or Google Calendar, and set up reminders for when assignments are due. Google also has an entire host of free tools, such as backup drives for you to store documents, spreadsheets, and files so can access everything from anywhere. With today’s technology, you can even have these reminders show up on your smartphone, ensuring you don’t miss a submission date and get docked for late work. Sometimes life can throw curveballs that get in the way of getting work done, however, with a well-planned schedule, you will feel less stress and see more success in your college career. 

As you delve into your online college courses full speed ahead, keep these tips in mind as they will ensure a successful start to your educational journey. In time, these tips will become habitual in your daily routine.


Written by Sonja Bethune, PsyD, a core faculty member in the Humanities & Science department that is part of the Division of General Education at Ashford University.

Buck, C. A. (2018, January 18). Work/life connections – EAP offers guidance on talking about sexual assault and harassment [Image]. Retrieved from

Computer problems | A college student is having problems with her laptop [Photograph]. (2012, July 12). Retrieved from[email protected]/7658225516

Dike, J. (2014, September 1). Find free online courses for this semester on [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Harden, R. (2017, April 12). Know what it takes to study education in the United States [Photograph]. Retrieved from

How to be organized: College student edition [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Jacoby, B. (2015, April 15). Asking questions is really hard [Image]. Retrieved from 


Questions? Talk with an Advisor

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.

Step 1 of 2

Let us help.

Fill out this form to talk with an advisor.

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.