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Tips for the best online learning experience

February 1, 2024

The growth of online instruction has expanded education access for many who need the flexibility of asynchronous learning; however, transitioning to a virtual classroom can sometimes be a challenge. Whether you’re taking a single class or completing a full course of study online, taking steps to ensure your learning journey is effective can help you achieve more positive learning outcomes.  

Dr. John Harris, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Management at Georgia Southern University who also teaches in the consortium online master’s in business administration WebMBA program, says he starts his online classes each semester by giving students several tips for a successful online learning experience. 

Tip 1: Treat it like you’re going to class

“First of all, treat it as if you’re physically going to class. Give yourself time and space to get the work done,” Harris advises. “Set a dedicated time to commit to doing your coursework. Don’t ‘find’ time, make time; and make it part of your daily or weekly schedule.”

Tip 2: Mark your calendar

“At the beginning of the semester, mark your calendar. Go through the syllabus, and set yourself reminders for your deadlines and due dates. It can seem like you have a lot of time to get an assignment done that’s at the end of the semester, but it can be easy to lose sight of a big project that’s coming up if you’re busy putting out other, smaller fires throughout the semester. Don't give yourself an excuse to forget.” 

Tip 3: Find meaning in what you’re doing 

“Find something to make it meaningful for you,” Harris says. “Find a way to connect yourself to the material and how it relates to your life and work so that it’s not just theoretical. If that’s hard to do because the class doesn’t directly relate to your current field, as Stephen Covey says, ‘Find Your Why.’ Think of the end goal you are trying to reach and how that class is helping you achieve that goal.”

Tip 4: Let your professors know when you need help

“Talk to your professors. We are a resource. Ask us questions,” Harris says. “Unlike when we’re in the classroom, when it comes to virtual learning, we can’t see your faces or ‘read the room.’ We don't know that a concept isn’t landing or that there’s a problem unless you tell us. It’s our job to help you succeed, but we can’t help unless you tell us that you’re struggling with something.”

Tip 5: Connect with your classmates

“Connect with your classmates as much as you are able,” Harris advises. “Just because you're taking a class alone, doesn’t mean you are alone, especially with our (WebMBA) program. That’s the great thing about coming to an in-person orientation for an online program: you get the opportunity to meet your teammates, classmates, and professors from all seven of the universities who contribute to the program. Take advantage of that to build your network and put faces to names and make those connections early.” 

For those without the advantage of meeting classmates in person, take advantage of the ability to chat and discuss with your classmates, and don’t be afraid to form study groups outside of class via a virtual meeting platform so you can start building connections.

About John Harris, Ph.D. 

Dr. Harris received his Ph.D. from Florida State University in 2017 and joined the faculty at Georgia Southern University later that year. He has taught with the WebMBA since 2018. His research interests include leadership, organizational politics, relationships at work, social effectiveness, and reputation. His research has been published in several outlets, including Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, and Journal of Business and Psychology. He is a member of the Academy of Management and the Southern Management Association.

The WebMBA is an online consortium MBA program composed of seven AACSB-Accredited universities: Augusta University, Columbus State University, Georgia College & State University, Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, the University of West Georgia, and Valdosta State University. Students complete the 10 courses that comprise the program in five (5) consecutive semesters with a team of fellow students. To learn more, visit us at

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