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Strategies for Success in Online Courses

Academic Responsibility and Honesty

Students are required to read assignments, to follow directions, to meet deadlines, to participate fully in class activities, and to complete all projects.

As responsible members of an educational community, students must conduct themselves courteously and in accordance with college policy at all times both face to face and online. Respectful dialogue including alternative viewpoints is welcome in academic inquiry, where opinions are invited and evidence expected.

Students must do their own original work for their classes. Collaborative work and group activities require complete participation of all members of the group and acknowledgment of the collaboration. When outside sources are appropriate, these sources must be attributed fully and accurately using current documentation formats specified by the professor. Students are responsible for finding out the correct way to attribute work from contributors and sources. Cheating or plagiarism, which is the accidental or intentional misrepresentation of another's work as one's own, may lead to failure in the course.

Class Participation

  • Online classes offer rich opportunities for individual participation and for collaboration in active learning activities that contribute to long-term learning and understanding.
  • For group projects, others rely on your involvement, and you can learn from your classmates as well as teach them through your considered and well-supported contributions.
  • Electronic submissions enable you to participate in meaningful conversations and academic arguments supported by evidence from your observations and research. Treat all your correspondents respectfully. Respect the privacy of your correspondents by keeping their messages within the class unless you have permission to reproduce them elsewhere.
  • Be sure you place your messages to classmates, the instructor, and others in context, giving enough information for your readers to understand the situation fully. Double check that your tone and diction are appropriate for an educational environment. As a member of the academic community, you are expected to conduct yourself in person, in print, and on line in a responsible way and in the spirit of courteous educational inquiry.


  • Course communication is done through e-mail, online discussions, and course websites. If you are unable to check the course website and your e-mail daily, at least alternate days are recommended. Otherwise, an online class might not be the most appropriate approach for you.
  • Public web access is available at area public libraries and college libraries.
  • Consider a free e-mail account from a Web service as a backup e-mail address.
  • Do not forget that you can also contact your instructor and classmates by phone, fax, and postal mail.
  • Contact your instructor as soon as you experience any technical or assignment trouble. DO NOT wait until the last minute.


  • E-mail may seem private, but it is not. Think of it more like a postcard than like a letter. The message is accessible to many people who have no interest in reading it; however, it is possible for them to read it. After all, cyberspace consists of computers all over the world linked together electronically.
    • Most organizations back up everything on their servers daily, including incoming and outgoing e-mail at academic and commercial sites, meaning there might be a permanent record of your messages somewhere.
    • Additionally, sometimes people accidentally send e-mail to somebody other than the intended recipient. So be aware that your audience might be larger than you originally intended--and be careful that you have the correct e-mail address in your "To" and "CC" lines.
    • Deleting e-mail removes it from you own directory but not necessarily from the server maintained by the organization whose services you are using.
  • Web Forums and Web pages (unless password protected or maintained on a closed network or intranet) are accessible to everybody who has access to the World Wide Web. Think of such messages as more like a global bulletin board posting or a billboard than like a letter. As with e-mail, such messages are likely to be preserved on a server.
  • Be especially careful about your diction and tone; irony and humor aren't always understood. Clear communication of your intention and meaning depend entirely on your choice and arrangement of words (and sometimes of multimedia elements). So choose your words and sentence structures carefully.
  • Do not type all capitals, which is difficult to read and has come to be considered the electronic version of "shouting".
  • Do be courteous, even when you disagree, and always provide clear, logical support for your views.
  • Always provide a clear context for your messages: appropriate subject lines and enough information in the messages itself to establish clearly the situation about which you are writing.
    • Your subject line should be short but specific: Question about Miss Emily's isolation rather than Question or Help.
    • In the message give some background information if necessary.
  • Avoid reposting long previous messages: paraphrase them instead (identifying the original sender) or quote excerpts (identifying the original sender and the fact that they are excerpts).
  • Always follow the specific directions and criteria of your instructor.
  • As a member of the academic community, you are expected to conduct yourself in person, in print, and on line in a responsible way and in the spirit of courteous educational inquiry. Of course, you are expected to abide by the policies of the college and the laws of the state and the country.

Time Management

Develop an online file and folder structure for your files, including word processed files, e-mail, and websites. You might want a separate folder for each class and then for each class project plus additional folders with logical subdivisions. In addition, make backup electronic and print copies of important class materials and classwork. Keep portfolios of print materials carefully labeled. Maintain all your writing and course materials until after grade reports have been posted.

  • Name Your Files Systematically
    • If your instructor assigns a filename for a project, use it.
    • As you compose drafts, for every major revision, consider changing the last element of the name before the dot to a figure to represent the draft number. For example, for the file your instructor says to name skylark.doc, as you write and revise, name subsequent drafts skylark2.doc, and then skylark3.doc for your own management system. Then save the final version you submit for credit as skylark.doc.
  • Back Up Your Work
    • Save as you work. Save every time you leave an application. Save files and e-mail messages on your hard drive. Save a backup set on disks and keep those disks in a different building from your computer.
    • Print a copy of every important message and document for your files.
  • Adherence to all course criteria is important for success in college classes as in the workplace. Following directions is especially critical in online classes, where submission requirements for coursework as well as the criteria for course projects depend on electronic mail and the World Wide Web.
  • Make outlines and checklists from the instructor's directions so that you can double check your own progress and so that you can ask informed questions about any elements for which you want clarification. As a result, you will be unlikely to lose credit for neglecting to follow directions.
  • Students in college and university classes should plan to spend approximately twelve hours a week engaged in each three-credit-hour class (for typical on-site class, that's 3 hours in class and 9 hours independent work). Because of the special requirements of electronic communication, including software and hardware access, online students should strive to accomplish their goals well before the deadlines.
  • Plan ahead: Review the course outline and schedule of course activities regularly so you can budget your time accordingly.
  • In a collaborative class, your missed deadline can interfere with the progress of a group, and your work might not be accepted for credit. Remember that an electronic submission is considered as both your attendance and your participation in online classes.
  • Always have a backup plan for completing and submitting your work, for example, fax, postal delivery, or personal delivery. Use a computer at a library or a friend's house if your own is unavailable.
  • Most people who take classes on line lead busy lives and are already good at time management. If you are not skilled at time management, consult your instructor, capable classmates, or a college counselor for some strategies.

Last updated: 4/5/2012 1:51:30 PM