Attending an online school can be exactly what the doctor ordered when considering the various college opportunities and can be a great option for those with hectic schedules. Surely there are many, many benefits to online learning—flexible schedules, the ability to gain an education from a college that may not have been accessible, and available online resources at the ready. Although enticing, online schooling is a commitment. So what do online schools wish their students knew before even enrolling?

Your first online class will be overwhelming. Learning the online class system can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it is okay. It will take time to learn to maneuver around your student portal. NC TIP: To help you along, set some time aside to become familiar with the online class system’s features and functions before your first class. Additionally, reading your syllabi prior to the first day of class will give you great insight as to what to expect that semester.

 There is little to no face-to-face interaction with instructors. However obvious this may be, many students attending an online college struggle with the idea that there will barely be any visual contact with their instructors. Several students even realize after a few weeks that online learning does not suite their particular learning style, and adapting to communicating through e-mail and online discussions with your cohort and instructor is a built-in feature to online learning that cannot be avoided. NC TIP: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Online learning is easier when you are actively communicating with instructors as well as those in your cohort.

Every student needs to set a schedule. You are responsible for your education and getting assignments done on time. Time management skills is a necessity to successfully learning in an online format since the class does not meet in person on a routine basis. NC TIP: Designate time each week dedicated to studying and reviewing class materials. If you already have time set aside each week, it can alleviate some of the stress of shuffling tasks around to make room for school.

You will need to find a private, quiet place to study. To get the most out of your class, place yourself in a quiet environment that is conducive to studying. A quiet environment will help you maintain focus on what you are learning. NC TIP: Turn off anything that may be distracting, including your phone, and avoid areas where people gather.

As questions arise, jot them down. Because there is no face-to-face interactions with your instructor, you are not able to ask questions on the spot by raising your hand. When you write a question down, you have it for reference and can reflect back to it at the end of your studying session. NC TIP: As you read through the assignments and lectures, take a moment to write down any questions you have. These questions may be addressed later in the module and if not, can be addressed in a class discussion or by e-mailing the instructor.

You will need to log in to the student portal frequently. All communication will be done through your student portal. To ensure you do not miss important information from the school or your instructor, log on regularly to stay updated. Set times where you can quickly log on to check for updates. NC TIP: It is beneficial to log on to your student portal at least three times a week.

Don’t be timid to ask for help. If you are having trouble with the online learning system or struggle with its features, look for help. Resources are available to you through the school. NC TIP: Before the semester starts, identify certain staff and faculty members and their specific functions for the College (for example, know who can answer questions regarding Brightspace). When a problem arises, you won’t find yourself wondering who to get in touch with.