Support Online Learner Success

  • Provide frequent, timely, helpful, and positive feedback.
  • Identify and positively recognize specific things in learner's work.
  • Be helpful and encourage learners to do the right thing.
  • Raise questions that make learners really examine their ideas and what they are studying.
  • Be accessible.
  • Be present.
  • Be timely in your interactions and with your feedback.
  • Offer supportive comments, compliments, and encouragements.
  • Pose challenging questions.
  • Encourage self-reflection and evaluation.
  • Encourage peer evaluation.
  • Provide options, and opportunities for learners to make choices in course assignments that allow them to relate their work to their real lives or to use their skills and interests.
  • Encourage high levels of helpful interaction between learners.
  • Encourage peer support, interaction, and collaboration in the course to address and alleviate the sense of isolation that online learners may feel.
  • Maintain high expectations and communicate them to learners.
  • Provide a course schedule with assignments and due dates to make planning and time management easier.
  • Use the grade book make learner self-monitoring of progress in the course easier.
  • Identify learners at risk and take preventive action.
  • Provide exemplary examples, or model assignments to help learners better understand expectations for their work.
  • Create an environment where learners feel they have access to you, their classmates, resources, and helpand where their questions can get answered.
  • Recognize and acknowledge learner success, effort, and accomplishments with course work, life challenges, and with technology used in the course.
  • Draw learner attention to how the skills they develop in your course and the material they learn will be useful in their real lives and will help them be successful in the future.
  • Encourage and reinforce the need for managing time well.
  • Ask learners for clarification to prevent misunderstanding.
  • Provide opportunities and online course areas for non-course related interactions between course participants.
  • Make sure learners know how to get technical help. Recommend that they get help immediately and early.
  • Provide learners with information on tutoring services, or where students can go to get help with their writing (campus writing center)
  • Reassure learners that they can be successful in your online course and give them tips on how (for example, collect stories from and suggestions from past students in the form of advice for future students).


Proactive questions for online faculty* to use on a “just-in-time” basis—at the moments when learners could use the prompting most. Helping learners know not just what is to be learned, but how.

  • What is the topic for our online discussions in this module?
  • What will be important ideas covered in this module?
  • What do you already know about this topic?
  • What can you relate this to?
  • What will you do to remember the key ideas?
  • Is there anything about this topic you don’t understand, or are not clear about?

*Adapted from Helen Askell-Williams of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Source:

*Table 2 Traditional and adapted self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies used by online learners.


SRL Strategies





Online Adaptations



Goal setting & planning


Calendars and organizers; self-imposed deadlines; chunking work



Daily log ons; coordination of online and off-line work; planning for tech. problems



Performance & Self-Observation

Organizing & transforming instructional materials


Structuring the learning environment








Self-monitoring & record-keeping


Note taking; outlining; underlining or highlighting course texts; graphic organizers



Reducing distractions; relaxation techniques




Phone, e-mail, or personal contact to get help from instructor or peers



Charts and records of completed assignments and grades



Printing out course materials and discussions; off-line composing and editing of postings; sorting discussion threads


Finding fast computer and Internet connection; creating a psychological place for class


Accessing technical expertise; peer contacts to reduce loneliness; Web-based helpers; using student postings as models


Multiple back ups; tracking reading and writing for discussions; frequent checks of online grade book








Using checklists and rubrics; using instructor comments and grades


Success based on academic performance



Using audience of peers to shape discussion postings


Success based on technical, social, academic performance


*Self-Regulation in a Web-Based Course: A Case Study, Joan L. Whipp and Stephannie Chiarelli retrieved on 10.20.11


Goal-setting and planning.

As an online student it is easy to become a procrastinator and feel as though you have all the time to get things done. It becomes even more important to make sure that one sets goals and plans when taking courses in a "blended" learning environment where there are both online and face to face activities to accomplish and in which to participate.


Successful blended/online students report that they:

  1. Focus on careful time management.
  2. Use traditional goal setting and planning aids such as calendars and organizers to plan the timing of course activities and juggle multiple academic, professional, and personal demands.
  3. Feel the need to be in the course on almost a daily basis “to see what . . . new things are going on,” to check out responses to their postings.
  4. Loggin into the course at least 4–5 times each week.
  5. Spend time off-line planning what they are going to say.
  6. Really thinking things out before posting/responding in discussion.
  7. Plan to spend the first couple of days of the weekly course modules for checking the course schedule, printing out needed materials, and doing the required readings.
  8. Spend the first couple of days of each course module as it opens checking the course schedule, identifying what is due and when, printing out needed materials and doing the required readings.
  9. Compose responses offline.
  10. Have a plan for inevitable technical problems and allot extra time to deal with technology especially at the beginning of the course, e.g., setting earlier deadlines for assignments to build in a time buffer in case something goes wrong.




  1. Daily logons.
  2. Coordination of online and off-line work.
  3. Anticipation and planning for technical problems.
  4. Use of a course calendar for important course dates and assignments.
  5. Use of automated calendaring for important course assignments, events, tasks.
  6. Use of smart phone features or web apps to assist with time management.
  7. Selection of course projects that have immediate real-life relevance.



Organizing & transforming instructional materials

Successful online students focus on the task and optimize their performance by systematically managing and rearranging their instructional materials to improve their learning. As a student in a "blended" course it becomes even more important to be organized and develop strategies to manage the materials used and created in both the face to face and online environments.



  1. Take notes.
  2. Outline.
  3. Underline.
  4. Highlight and write in the margins of texts. Highlight and write in the margins of texts. Use online highlighting/notation tools to mark up online materials.
  5. Print out, sort and mark up discussions.
  6. Print out and mark up course materials, readings, and assignments.
  7. Compose and edit discussion posts off-line.
  8. Sort discussion threads.
  9. Leverage web2.0 services to manage, organize, and optimize instructional materials.  


Structuring the learning environment

In an online course students are in unconventional settings for “class” – work, home, computer lab, library, etc. Students in a "blended" course have both the unconventional and the conventional learning environments to deal with. Successful blended students structure and arrange their settings to make learning easier.



  1. Create a psychological time and place for the online part of class.
  2. Create a consistent schedule to attend and work on both the f2f and online components of the course.
  3. Self impose rules on interruptions, breaks, and time frames.
  4. Set up a quiet area in home to “go to class.”
  5. Have food/drink available for breaks.
  6. Use public computer labs/spaces at times when there are not a lot of people around.
  7. Find/schedule time on a fast computer and internet connection at work/computer lab.



High achievers are distinguished by their use of teachers and peers as sources of social support. Students that use a variety of self-regulated learning strategies tend to seek help more frequently than do other students. Students in "blended" courses have a variety of ways to access their instructors and peers for support and to get help. Successful students in "blended” environments can help themselves by asking for help from instructors and using classmates for support.




  1. Seek help to clarify expectations on assignments.
  2. Check on progress.
  3. Collaborate with others on assignments.
  4. Get feedback on writing drafts from peers or family.
  5. On and offline interaction with instructor.
  6. Get frequent and timely feedback from instructor.
  7. Access technical expertise in a timely way.
  8. Seek and offer technical assistance from/to classmates.
  9. Contact peers to reduce loneliness and to keep motivated.
  10. Use the course bulletin board to connect with classmates.
  11. Access peers for help.
  12. Use web-based help sources.
  13. Use the web to clarify concepts and terms from course materials/readings.
  14. Use peer posts as models.
  15. Use models of exemplar assignments posted in the course.
  16. Compare work or work in progress with that of classmates.



Self-monitoring & record-keeping

Monitoring refers to student- initiated efforts to record events or results. Successful online students regularly calculate their grades, and keep paper and electronic records of completed assignments. Students in "blended" courses have both online a paper ways to track grades and assignments.



  1. Back up discussion posts in multiple ways.
  2. Monitor reading and writing for online discussions.
  3. Frequently check the online grade book.
  4. Use features in your LMS to monitor course progress.
  5. Take extra precautions and monitoring the technical aspects of completing and submitting assignments/posts, e.g., after submitting a post, check to see if it was posted and in the correct location.
  6. Save all submissions on computer or disc.
  7. Compare numbers of submission posts/comments/replies with fellow classmates.
  8. Track what posts have been read/unread.
  9. Leverage technology and the web to autosave and store course work.




Self-judgment involves self-evaluating one’s performance and attributing causal significance to the results.  Self-reactions include level of satisfaction and inferences made about how one needs to alter self- regulated learning strategies in future efforts to learn or perform. In a "blended" learning environment students have unique access to online peer interactions and frequent reactions from classmates in discussions to add input to their own self-reflections, as well as face to face opportunities for interactions. Successful students think about how they learn, what they have learned, how they can apply what they have learned in new contexts, and what contributes to or hinders their learning, so they can take actions to improve their outcomes.



  1. Use assignment checklists/rubrics to make judgments about their performance in assignments.
  2. Use instructor feedback and grades to gauge progress in course.
  3. Use self-reflection strategies such as self-evaluation and peer feedback to assess performance.
  4. Use an audience of peers to shape their discussion postings.
  5. Use continuous feedback from peers to make judgments about the quality of their own work.
  6. Use continual feedback to help make sure you understand and are on the right page.
  7. Use the number of comments received on a post as a measure of effectiveness.
  8. Feel pride in contributing something substantive to the discussion.
  9. Use peers to add incentive for continuous self-evaluation of discussion postings, e.g., taking extra care to reread and edit posts submitted for discussion and thinking about their classmates that will read the posts.
  10. Leverage web 2.0 technologies such as blogging to build self awareness and to keep metacognitive reflections.



Students that consistently use SRL strategies believe that they are competent, efficacious, and autonomous. Instructors can support student self-efficacy by creating a supportive online learning environment where students can:

  1. Observe others successfully using SRL strategies.
  2. Get helpful feedback on their own strategy use.
  3. Experience success with particular learning task.


Online students worry about:

  1. Potential procrastination.
  2. Being misunderstood.
  3. Missing social contact and interaction.
  4. Their technical expertise.
  5. Their writing skills.
  6. Their ability to be successful in a fully online course.



  1. Early access to tech support.
  2. Early success with the technical demands of the course.
  3. Develop technical competence, so they feel less dependent.
  4. Develop tolerance for technical issues.
  5. Develop the ability to troubleshoot technical problems.


Goal orientation

Successful online student tend to focus more on learning progress than on competitive outcomes – mastery, rather than performance goals.



Develop projects that have immediate real life relevance.



Discussions and interaction influence motivation.



Provide opportunities for discussion, interaction, and collaboration throughout the course.



Students self-reflect and make judgments that attribute their level of success/achievement/performance to their ability or level of effort.



  • Feel empowered to adapt learning strategies for a better outcome in the future.
  • Feel that effort is the primary reason for success.


NGLC SUNY Blend Project  Revised: 3.28.12     
Adapted by Alexandra M. Pickett from Self-Regulation in a Web-Based Course: A Case Study, Joan L. Whipp and Stephannie Chiarelli retrieved on 10.20.11  Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY)


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