FSW Feature

How to Succeed in Online Learning: Tips from FSW Peer Mentors

While online learning has been growing in popularity throughout many college degree programs, COVID-19 has forced all FSW classes to move to online, virtual formats. Students who have never taken an online class may find that they are now struggling in the same courses they were easily cruising through just a few weeks ago.

FSW provides many resources to help students succeed, including 24/7 online tutoring through Tutor.com, tutoring and writing consultation sessions with FSW Academic Support staff, and Ask-A-Librarian services to assist students with research through the FSW Libraries.

It’s important for students to know that they are not alone in their struggles, so we asked three FSW Peer Mentors to share their first-hand experiences and tips on how they’ve overcome many of these same challenges in transitioning to online learning. Here’s what they had to say:

William Buchanan FSW Charlotte Campus Associate in Arts

Natalia Jackson FSW Collier Campus A.S. in Business Administration and Management

Caroline Pride FSW Lee Campus A.S. in Science and Engineering Technology

What was the biggest challenge you faced with your online learning experience and how did you overcome it?


“The biggest challenge I faced was motivating myself. When I could go onto campus for class and to work as a peer mentor, I could leave all my distractions, like Netflix and junk food, at home. But now that my learning environment is also at home, avoiding these distractions is much harder! Overcoming the temptation is a struggle every day, but one thing that’s working for me is to reward myself with those distractions for a set amount of time, but only after being productive. That way, I can do something that I enjoy more than homework, but limit the time so that it doesn’t take up the rest of my day.


“One challenge is finding how and when you study the best. Everyone’s learning styles are different. Some people can sit and study all day, while others require study breaks. Finding the best way for you to study might take time, however, once you figure this out, studying will become so much easier and more enjoyable.

Another thing is getting comfortable with reaching out to your professors if something is not posted or if you don’t understand something. Whatever it might be, just email them and ask questions. Professors are always willing to help you and will provide answers on any questions you might have as long as you ask. As well as that, professors are people and sometimes they might forget to post something or update your grades, therefore it never hurts to send out a reminder.”


“Definitely the biggest challenge that I faced with transitioning to a virtual learning environment was adjusting to a new class format. I was not familiar with online classes prior to this transition, so it has been completely new to me. I overcame the challenge of this adjustment by constructing a new routine that would allow me to be productive and continue to do well in all my classes.”

What has surprised you most about online classes? What are some of the positive aspects you’ve found?


“The most surprising thing about online classes to me was just how much freedom you really have. You can set your own pace as long as you get your work done. That freedom is something that I can’t take for granted because still must work during the week to meet deadlines. But it’s a pleasure having the ability to decide whether to work early in the morning or late at night instead of being bound to a schedule of learning at a specific time on certain days.”


“Personally, I find online classes more beneficial than face-to face classes. With online classes, I can plan out my days better, and I can plan out my study time accordingly. I learn much better by myself. One of the reasons is because I can choose the time that is beneficial for me to study and read, versus a face to-face class that require you to attend at a certain time on certain days even if you’re not feeling well.”


“What surprised me most about online classes was the Zoom application. I was afraid that moving to online learning would remove the interpersonal connections of the physical classroom. However, Zoom has been a positive learning tool that allows the classes to continue to converse, ask questions, and have virtual, face-to-face interaction in the classroom.”

What advice do you have for students who may be struggling with their online classes?


“A piece of advice that I might give to students struggling with their online classes is to know yourself. Be familiar with how you really learn and what works for you. Do you learn best in the morning? At night? Do you need silence or a bit of background noise? Does learning in a group help or hinder your ability to absorb information? If you deeply understand your learning preferences and habits, then you can brainstorm creative ways to incorporate those elements into your online learning experience. Do you like studying in a public place but can’t get out? Perhaps you could look for a “café ambiance” soundtrack on YouTube to replicate the noise. So, in short, figure out what helps you learn and find ways to add those things to your new environment.”


“Breathe, take it one day at a time, and divide and conquer your assignments. You don’t have to complete all of your assignments in one day. Break your days of the week into sections. For example: read the chapter on Monday, then do your homework on Tuesday, complete your quiz on Wednesday, and just continue taking it one day at a time.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to your professor if you’re not understanding something and schedule a meeting.

And finally, don’t burn yourself out on school. Give yourself breaks. Don’t study all day every day, or you will grow to hate school. Rather, plan to complete all of your assignments from Monday-Friday, and then have your weekend off. Hang out with your family and friends, do something you really enjoy, and reward yourself for all of your hard work. After the weekend, you’ll feel more refreshed and will be ready to get back to studying on Monday.”


“My advice for any students who may be struggling with their online classes is to reach out for help! Many professors have made themselves available through virtual office hours on Zoom. Additionally, most of FSW's resources, such as counseling and tutoring, have also transitioned online and are available to all students.”

Do you have any tips you’d like to share for using Canvas or other online learning technology and resources?


“One thing that I use all the time on Canvas is the calendar feature. Not everyone knows that it exists, but I recommend it to everyone. It does half of the scheduling work for me and lays due dates and assignments automatically. It’s such a handy time saver and a real grade saver.”


“I make sure to read every single email and have my notifications on at all times. Have your email, Canvas and Zoom apps downloaded on your phone and ready to go. You never know when a teacher could change a due date or change the weight of the grade. Anything could happen. Technology can also fail us sometimes, so if something is not uploading, make sure to take a picture of it as proof and reach out to your professor as soon as possible."


“My personal favorite Canvas format is the "List View" on the Canvas dashboard. I recommend this to all students to provide a visual for due dates and deadlines for assignments in their online classes. Especially for classes that were not originally online at the start of the semester, your assignments may not be provided with reminders or updates.”

What are your top tips for students to help them succeed in their online classes?


“Schedule everything that you can. Take those dates out of your syllabus and your Canvas page and pull them into the real world – your world. Put them into your phone or a planner so you can see those deadlines next to commitments like work dates, family events, personal events. That way, your homework and education are integrated into the other aspects of your life that are just as important.

Communicate with your professor. It’s much easier to form a relationship with a professor whose face you see every other day in a classroom. Online, your professor might only seem like a name and photo, but they are just as invested in your success as any other professor. Make sure to respond to feedback and ask probing questions about the material that you’re studying that week. Utilizing your professor as a resource can really improve your success in that class, and that’s no different for online classrooms.

Relish the challenge and look for opportunities to improve. Some students adapt more quickly to learning online. Don’t let that discourage you from trying and certainly don’t let it be an excuse for you not to adapt at all. Learning online is a unique challenge that gives you an opportunity to learn the material at your own pace, but it also presents opportunities to learn things about yourself and what makes you tick. Trust yourself to find the solutions to problems within the math homework, as well as the secrets to keeping yourself motivated. You may just not have found them. Yet.”


“Don’t fall behind, and don’t wait until the last minute to complete or to turn in your work. Working ahead is so much more beneficial, and you never know what could happen. The website or your Wi-Fi could stop working, and you could lose points for turning in your assignments late.

Treat studying like it’s your job. Have a time set just to study, write out when everything is due, and know who to reach out to when you need help.

Make studying fun. Ask your classmates to join a Zoom meeting and learn the material together, or study outside. You can get very creative with online studying.

Find your quiet space and set distractions aside. If you’ve set time aside to study, make sure you actually study. Don’t play with your pets, text your friends, or watch a tv show. Find space where nothing will distract you from what needs to get done.

Use additional online resources like YouTube and Quizlet. There are so many online resources that can help you study and understand the material. Personally, I always go on YouTube and find a tutorial that can teach me something that I do not understand. There are tutors that are available online as well. You can find all kind of help online if you just put some work and time into it."


“Check your Canvas and Bucs email every day for important updates or announcements.

Take a look at the FSW event calendar and try out a virtual workshop or attend a virtual event. Virtual social interaction can be helpful in boosting your mood, creativity, and productivity.

Develop a routine that works with your schedule to help you be as productive and healthy as possible.”