Blog post

Top tips for new online students

If you are new to online learning, you may be wondering what you can expect from the experience. Here, at the University of Derby, we want to make the transition easy for new online students. To help with this, we asked some of our online students, recent graduates, and academics to share their top tips for those new to studying online.

By The Online Learning Team - 16 December 2020

Take it a day at a time

Gabrielle Davies studied her Business Management (Top-Up) BA with the University of Derby Online Learning and is now studying her Finance MSc. She says: “My top tip for busy students like me is to take it a day at a time, an assessment at a time, a module at a time. If you look too far out it can become overwhelming. If you make it part of your daily routine, it won’t seem like too much. And when you finish it, you might even miss it!” 

Know your deadlines

Yasuhiro Kotera, Academic Lead for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says: “My top tips are: know your assessment (the deadline and what is required), establish a routine for when you will engage with your studies, share what you have learned to a person next to you. If there is no ‘person’, talk to your pets and associate study time with what you like. That could be music, food, coffee a place.”


Alawi Almajid, an online Ergonomics MSc student, offers these top tips for new students: “If you’re considering studying online for the first time, my advice is go ahead and give it a go, set a dedicated study schedule and make sure you take advantage of the dedicated online platform by communicating student to student and student to lecturers, as it’s so valuable to gain knowledge from others while you study.” 

Ask for help

Dr Melinda Lyons, Academic Lead in Human Factors/ Ergonomics, says: “Make the most of your time on the course. Remember this is for you and has been designed to help you maximise your success. We understand that you may have responsibilities outside of the course. Don’t panic if things happen that make studying difficult. Please get in touch with us, we’re here to help.  

“Get to know your academic team, we love our subjects, and we love helping you to explore it and identify how you can advance your knowledge or branch into new areas.  

“Get to know the people on your course and your student representatives, they could be your future colleagues, collaborators, or new best friends.  

“Never worry about asking for advice or help as we have lots of resources that we can draw on to support your learning experience and we will try and make it the best possible experience that it could be for you as an individual. In ergonomics, we celebrate the diversity of our individual differences. The things that make us unique are valuable and, if this means we need to look into challenging things to tailor your learning experience to suit your learning goals in ergonomics, we would want to hear about this. Don’t be shy and please give us this feedback, we’re listening.” 

Have weekly goals

Dr Katia Vionne, Lecturer in Psychology says: “My top tips are: take full advantage of the online mode to create your own personalised timetable, use an actual physical planner or diary to block the time during the week and have weekly goals and milestones that you would like to achieve.”

Get involved – as soon as possible

Amanda Ripley studied our Psychology MSc. She studied at an accelerated rate, which she admits was challenging but she enjoyed it as she could quickly see the progress she was making on her course. Her tips are: “Really be on the ball as soon as possible. It’s easy to think ‘I’ve got ten weeks’. As soon as you think that, it gets away from you.

“Get involved as soon as possible, don’t be afraid to ask questions, keep up with the reading. And, if there’s something you don’t know, ask the question. There is no such thing as a stupid question.”

Be organised

Alan Williams, Academic Lead for Nursing and Perioperative Practice, shares his top tips. He says: “Try to be as organised as you can, regularly check your University email account, make a plan for when, where and how you will study every week and introduce yourself to your fellow students and tutors, saying why you have decided to study this module.”

Explore all the content

Dr Pauline Green, Academic Lead in Health and Social Care, says: “Remember that you are studying on a programme with tutors who are passionate about their subject and practice areas and they want you to be successful and achieve your full potential. They are always there to support you.

“Before you start your studies, become aware of your online learning environmental and platform (Blackboard). Explore all the content in the tabs on the left-hand side of the screen in the module area. There is a wide range of material there to help you.

“Be confident in your abilities, take advice from tutors and, most importantly of all, enjoy your studies. This is a really exciting time for you and your hard work will be rewarded from a personal achievement point of view and from a career progression perspective too. Advancing your learning will open up doors and prospects that were not available to you previously.”

Download everything

Andy Bloor, Academic Lead for the iPGCE, says: “My top tips for successful online learning are: download all the materials, set time aside and my final top tip is explore, go through the boards, go through all of the information that is there, go through all the tabs.”

Get into Udo

Yukari Iguchi, Academic Lead for Hospitality and Leisure, says: “My top tips are: have your own timetable, get familiar with Udo, ask questions and, if you need help or are in difficulties, tell us. Remember, we are all here to help you succeed in your studies.”

Stay up to date

Gilson Timire, online MSc Ergonomics student, says: “Plan your studies so that you are always up to date with others on your course, ask questions where you are not sure and have the motivation to plan and keep to a deadline.”

About the author

The Online Learning Team
The Online Learning Team manages the University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL).

We are a leader in online education and have been for almost two decades. The team are highly experienced in online education, utilising a best practice approach to online learning and we have a talented in-house team to deliver courses, specially designed for online study.