Inside the Classroom

Helping Students Work through the Challenges of Online Learning

The number of students who complete all or part of their coursework online is continuously growing, and so are the expectations of them. Participation and interaction in online courses should be equal to what is asked of students in brick-and-mortar classrooms, but how do students know what they need to do in order to excel in online courses? To help these students, schools and districts must hone in on what will engage students in a way that enables them to be successful in overcoming the challenges of online learning. Ensuring that students are taking the proper steps to achieve success means putting a plan in place on how they can work to adapt to online learning and avoid mistakes and distractions.

Getting Prepared

When you think of your students having the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive in online courses, what do you think of? The desire and demand for today’s learners to go digital is clear and present, and employing a practical strategy for students to have access to technology can help them address and overcome obstacles.

Many students enrolled in online courses are unaware of the components they need to have in place in order to be successful. At minimum, that typically includes both a working computer or device and reliable access to high-speed internet. Without that foundation in place, students will be unable to complete their coursework without great difficulty. Working together with your students, you can create a plan by informing them of the resources they have access to and implement a strategy to make sure they can fulfill their academic goals. That could mean they borrow a laptop or tablet from school over the weekend, or spend a few hours throughout the week at the school or public library.

Even without all of the resources in place at the beginning, the efforts you make to ensure your students feel included can motivate them to have the discipline and focus they need to flourish in online courses and stay on pace with their classmates. And knowing your students’ learning styles can be a big help in giving them the support they need for online courses. Though the material is presented in a different way than students may be used to, most online courses are no less rigorous or challenging (and in fact, some students find them to be more difficult!).

Taking Steps for Success

No matter how they’re learning, students will need the same types of skills and support to be successful, so try asking them a few questions to help them prioritize their goals. What are the responsibilities of being a successful student? What are the additional responsibilities they may be committed to outside of school? If students already appear overwhelmed, how can they push through whatever could be holding them back? Remind students to ask for help whenever they fall behind or don’t understand the material. Students may know the basics of time management, but they should also:

  • Be organized from the beginning. Missing due dates is one of the most common problems students have with online courses, so make sure they avoid cramming by spending time on their coursework every day.
  • Know how long to be logged in for each course. It’s typical to log in for a minimum of one hour per class every day, but how much time students need to spend working on each lesson depends on the difficulty of the course and how efficiently they study.
  • Make enough time for classes that are more difficult and make sure they have time to complete tests and turn in papers. Confirm teachers’ time zones to ensure that assignments are completed and turned in by the actual deadline.
  • Create a rapport with their instructors and tutors. Reach out and schedule weekly check-in sessions to make sure they understand the material well enough to work confidently and independently.
  • Ask for help when they need it. It’s better to get the answer to a question when it comes up than to continue being unsure and risk not understanding the rest of the material as a result.
  • Avoid procrastinating by asking, “What will I do if I don’t do it now?” Sometimes students have out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentalities and fail to keep up with the content. Other times, they ask questions when it may be too late, or struggle to make deadlines. Really think about the course load and stick to the plan of getting it done on time.

Encouraging students to give honest thought to what they have to do to excel in their courses while maintaining a healthy schedule can be key to working through the challenges of online learning.

Going Forward

When you help students discover the benefits of making good choices and being proactive, they can figure out how to face their obstacles and get the most out of their educational experience.

For more information on common mistakes students make with online learning, click here. And learn more ways to inspire creative classroom habits to keep students engaged and motivate them to be successful!


Besnoy, K. (2017, May 3). Online learning for K–12 students is not a trend or a fad. So how does it affect gifted students? Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Retrieved from

Bhagi, U. (2017, August 5). Top 10 student mistakes in online courses. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from

Cortez, M. (2018, January 20). Successful online education in K–12 requires accountability. EdTech Magazine. Retrieved from

Stanford, D. (2017, April 16). 5 time management strategies for online learning. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from

About the Author


Sasha Wordlaw

Sasha joined Edgenuity in 2015 as a Success Coach where she helped teachers and students achieve success through mentorship and assistance with their education platforms. During her tenure, Sasha was thrilled to further expand her experience with the marketing team, helping to inform people about the latest in edtech and education. As the oldest child in her family and a mother to one, Sasha has been dedicated to enriching the minds of children for most of her life. Her love for education combined with studies in theatre and film led her to teach children’s theatre for 3 years before working in special education with Scottsdale Unified School District in Arizona. Sasha continues her devotion to the arts within the Phoenix theatre community, working on stage and behind-the-scenes. A proud Nashville, TN native, Sasha and her son now call Arizona home.