I had an interesting conversation with someone yesterday about online courses. As you may know, my first book, Online College Success, was just released. A friend of mine told someone about my book, which led to a meeting with that person.

One of the questions she asked me was what expectations should a student have about online education. I love that question because so many students don’t know what to expect when they begin taking online classes. Let me share with you what I told her.

First, understand the time commit that online education requires. You know it takes time to complete all of your homework assignments. But this goes beyond that. You also need to schedule time to complete all of the reading assignments each week. And please don’t do your reading assignments and then immediately sit down to write a paper. You need time to reflect on what you have read; ponder it if you will. Then you can begin the process of writing a paper.

Second, realize there will be a learning curve when you start. No matter how much experience you may have as a student when you begin taking classes at a new school, you have to learn how things work. You need to orient yourself to the school. Many schools have an online orientation, but if they don’t, do your own orientation. Take some extra time before your course begins and explore your virtual learning environment. Find out what resources are available to you. Read through the student handbook. In other words, become familiar with how things work. This will save you a lot of grief when your course begins.

Third, understand that you are responsible for your education. If you have a question, ask someone! If you don’t know how to do something, find out! Most schools have many tools and resources available to you as a student, but it is up to you to find and use them.

For instance, if you don’t think you are a good writer, get some help! Many schools have writing labs available; some have tutors, too. Don’t wait for your first grade on a paper to find out you need help with writing. Before you write your first paper, check out the writing lab and brush up on your writing skills. It could pay off when you receive your first grade.

These are three of the things you should expect when you begin taking courses online. Understand the time commitment needed, realize there will be a learning curve, and you are responsible for your education. If you begin with these expectations in mind, you will have a much smoother transition to online courses.

If you want to learn more about this and other tips to being a successful online student, get my book, Online College Success: Prepare, Manage, and Achieve Success in Online Education. It is available now at onlinecollegesuccess.com/book.

Until next time…