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Teachers Tell All: Ten Tips for Online Course Success

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March 13, 2017

So, you’re thinking of enrolling in an online course?  Learning online offers a level of flexibility that many educators appreciate, and while it may feel like it as you settle in to take your course, you are NOT alone! You’re actually part of a great, worldwide consortium of educators. In fact, a recent study found that the number of students taking online courses grew to 5.8 million nationally, continuing a growth trend that has been consistent for 13 years. More than a quarter of higher education students (28%) are enrolled in at least one online course.

There are a variety of options for educators seeking online professional development opportunities, including PBS TeacherLine, which offers more than 80 graduate level facilitated, online courses, and a growing library of "just-in-time" self-paced courses for teachers.

Making the Grade

To help get you started and familiarize you with the online learning process, PBS TeacherLine provides a free course where new learners can practice navigating through a online class, uploading files, sending and receiving messages and more.

For some “been there, clicked that” wisdom, we asked a group of educators—our resident online course experts Amelia, Staci, Emily, Molly, Bill and Jahni—to share their best suggestions for online course success. Here are 10 great tips for online course success:  

1.     Set your ‘work’ schedule ahead of time for each week.

ProTip: “My advice would be to set personal goals throughout the week to make sure all assignments are completed in a timely manner.”—Staci

2.     PBS TeacherLine course week run Wednesday through Tuesday. Note your course schedule on your personal calendar.

3.     Make good use of the course syllabus.

ProTip: “The the syllabus is your best friend!  Make it your guide for the semester and use it to plan ahead!”—Molly 

4.     Communicate often with your course facilitator and online course colleagues. 

ProTip: “Don’t be shy! Success is basically all about clear and frequent communication with your course facilitator.” –Amelia

5.     Check off assignments as you complete them.

ProTip” “I like to print the assignment checklist early in the week to avoid last minute emergencies.” –Bill  

6.     Begin early in the week so you have plenty of time to update your assignments

7.     Consider changing your email address to one you can access from home or if, you are using your school email, check that you can access it from home.

ProTip: “Copy your course facilitators’ email address into your email contact list so you have it with you at all times. I even add it to my iPhone contact list.” –Emily

8.     Speaking of email, check your email daily during your course

9.     Speak up—you’re there to learn, so make sure to ask questions

10.  Keep in touch with your colleagues.

ProTip: “Why let the end of the course be the end to all the great online discussions? We continued emailing each other after their course ended.’ –Jhanni 

Ready to take your first online course? Visit PBS.org/TeacherLine and browse a wide array of courses beginning throughout the year. Don't delay the next set of courses begin on March 15! 


Helen Teague is in her 10th year as National Course Facilitator for PBS TeacherLine. She just finished her doctoral dissertation in the convergence of mobile technology in online courses at Pepperdine University.  She also holds a master’s degree in educational administration and secondary curriculum, and a bachelor’s degree in business management. In addition, she is a professional development speaker, mother to Amelia, a William & Mary student, and Ruby, the wonder-dog. 

Helen Teague

Helen Teague TeacherLine National Course Facilitator

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