Online courses place new responsibilities on the learner

Online learning requires a specific skill set to be successful. You’re on your own, learning 24/7, when-how-where you want when joining an online course. To do well, your technology should be reliable and fast. Your hardware should be up-to-date. Your machine should be protected from viruses. You should use secure passwords and know the site and sender when being asked to download a file. These are your responsibilities, as your online instructor won’t be able to help you with your own unique technology problems. Technology preparedness is important, but it is not the only thing you need to do to create a successful online learning environment. This page will help you gauge your readiness and prepare you for your online course experience.

There are a few practices that the University of Denver recommends in order to make your learning experience a positive one. If you follow these sensible guidelines and schedule ample amounts of time and attention for your studies, your online experience should be an exciting adventure in personalized, anytime learning.

Online Learning Readiness Assessment

Take the online learning readiness assessment to help you understand your level of preparedness for online courses. By providing answers to each of the questions, we will be able to assess your readiness and help determine what you need in order to be a successful online learner. Make sure to review the feedback upon completing the assessment and then follow the appropriate recommendations.

Manage Your Time

Online learners report a challenge in managing their work without the reminder of class time. You’ll need a method for task and schedule management that works for you. You’ll also need to be realistic about the time needed to complete an assignment or to study for an exam. Schedule that time ahead, allowing for life’s interruptions. You may also be surprised by the engagement of online discussions. Be aware of your time online.

As an online student, the ability to manage your time well and to be organized regarding your online course are keys to being a successful online learner. In order to be successful in an online course, you may need to make adjustments to your study habits. Online courses generally require more self-discipline to complete coursework and manage deadlines than face-to-face classes.  Keep in mind some online courses are offered in a condensed format. Condensed online courses will be very intensive, often requiring several hours of daily work. For example, a 5-week, 4-credit-hour course may require you to spend 20 hours per week on the course. Schedule time each day to work on your online course, and try to stick to it. Keep up with assignments to avoid being overwhelmed later. Don’t register for multiple online courses under the assumption that they are less work.

Manage Your Communication & Writing Skills

In an online class, there may be no direct, face-to-face contact with other students or the instructor. Because of the lack of face-to-face contact, it is important you are comfortable interpreting instructions on your own, seeking out help when you need it, and communicating in written form.

Because most online communication is in writing, you will need to make sure you read all written instructions carefully and seek out help when you need it. It is very important to let your instructor know if you need assistance or clarification on course content or instructions, even if you generally do not ask for help. Make sure you know the best method and appropriate time for contacting your instructor with class-related questions so you can plan ahead. The DU Writing Center offers online consultations to students who need remote assistance with their writing projects. You can schedule a consultation time with DU Writing Center staff. An appointment confirmation and set of instructions will then be sent to your email address.


If you are a student who requires accommodations, make sure you understand how they will work, and communicate with the instructor early on regarding your accommodations (e.g. Will there be timed tests? If so, how will you receive extended time? Will videos be captioned?).  If you are a student who uses assistive technology (e.g. screen reader, text-to-speech software), ensure that your technology is compatible with the technology used in the course.

Manage Your Computer

Technological readiness refers to your familiarity with technology that may be used in conjunction with your online course; including fast and reliable access to the Internet. You are more likely to be successful in an online class if you take steps to ensure you have a reliable computer (updated anti-virus software, spyware free) that has at least two web browsers installed and regular access to the Internet. Familiarize yourself with the support resources available to students by visiting the University’s Information Technology Help Desk. Check or review the technical requirements that are specific to your course and complete the student orientation if one is made available by your instructor.  Also review the basic computer specifications required by DU’s learning management system, Canvas.

Contact the DU Helpdesk (303-871-4700) right away if you have any technical issues.

Manage your hardware

Follow DU’s Guidelines for minimum and recommended hardware specifications for student computers.

Recommended Accessories

External hard drive: Strongly recommended for data backup in case of computer failure. Always keep a daily backup of files.
Headset with microphone: A headset with microphone for desktop machines, strong built-in microphone on your laptop, or ear buds with a microphone.
WebCam: Built-in or external webcam (check with your instructor to find out if a webcam is required).

Manage your software

You should have at least TWO web browsers, as no browser/hardware combination can effectively handle all file types. We recommend CHROME and FIREFOX for all machines; Internet Explorer for Windows; and Safari for Apple. Below are links to plug-ins that you should have installed on your computer and recommended guidelines for the Learning Management System (Canvas) you are using in your online class. Your instructor will tell you if there are additional hardware or software requirements for your specific course.

Adobe Reader: You may need this to download and view PDF documents.
Flash Player: You may need Flash installed to view media in your course.
Email: You will need access to your DU email. Your official University email will go to your address setting.

Security & Privacy Issues

Manage your identity. Be careful out there!  It is important that you keep your identity and your information safe and secure, so make certain that you have up-to-date virus protection and actively employ safe online security practices. The first step is to create safe and secure passwords. Creating passwords using the name of your dog, spouse or child is NOT considered good identity control. The second step is to install anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your computer and identity.

With these simple steps, you’re better prepared for the adventure of being an online learner. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your instructor right away.

Close Menu