FAQ — Students

How to Succeed in an Online Course

Whether you are new to online education, or if you have taken a few online courses, you’re probably wondering if there are some specific strategies for being successful in online courses. There are!

In some ways, online courses are the same as in-person courses: You have a professor, TAs, and classmates. You also have lectures, readings, papers, exams, discussions. And, most importantly, you have deadlines.

In other ways, however, they are different: All of the course materials are online, and you submit all of your work online. All communications with your professor, your TA, or your classmates, will usually be taking place online too. You won’t see them in class every week, but you will read their comments in discussion forums or in other classwork. You may never meet them in person.

This means that you have to put extra effort into developing relationships! Here are some important tips:

    • Go to online office hours. Office hours are there for you, so you can talk to the professor, or ask one of the many questions you have about the course or assignments. Your professor and TAs want to talk to you — it’s why they chose a profession in teaching!

    • Get into the discussion forums. Comment on things you find interesting, or relevant, or confusing. You’ll soon see you’re not the only one. Be helpful when you can — the confidence gained from helping others succeed is a great motivator for success.

    • Find a study partner or group, and keep in touch via email, Google chat, WhatsApp, or however you’d like. They are your community in this course.

    • If there are virtual class sessions on Zoom, show up, turn your video on, and engage in the conversation. (Yes, this means getting out of bed and getting dressed. You are in class, after all.)

    • Ask for help when you need it.

    • Finally, Learning Support Services offers support for some online courses.

Online courses have due dates and some virtual sessions, but most of the work will be done on your own time. This means you really have to manage your time intentionally and thoughtfully. Five-unit courses, online or in-person, take about 15 hours each week (and double for 5-week summer courses!). These tips will help you manage your time:

  • Schedule time to study, read, do homework, etc., each day of the week. Even if you can only put aside 45 minutes on one day, this will help you stay on track.

  • Add due dates to your calendar and set reminders.

  • Keep track of the time you’re spending on the course, and make sure to stay on schedule.

It’s also important that you be an active participant in your learning:

  • Take notes when you’re reading or watching lectures. Write down what you don’t understand. With video lectures, you have the advantage of being able to re-watch videos or parts of videos you feel you need to revisit — use it. Re-watch videos as many times as you need.

  • Ask questions in the discussion forums. That’s what the forums are there for.

  • Make your own study materials, like flash cards and drawings of new concepts.

  • Create a distraction-free environment where you can be in your work-mode. Consider turning off your phone and logging off social networks to minimize interruptions and distractions. You may not be physically on campus, but you’re still in class — act that way.

  • The activities in an online course have points and grades associated with them, and it’s important to keep that in mind, but your goal in an online course (or any course) is learning. You’re taking the course to learn new things, new ways to do things, and new ways to think about things.

One last difference, and this might be the biggest one: you really have to learn how to use an online course — how to watch video lectures, how to submit assignments, how to take exams, how to move from one module to the next, what’s happening this or next week… All of that information is available in Canvas.

  • Read the syllabus, the instructions for using the library off-campus, the information about disability accommodations.

  • Be on the lookout for announcements from your professor or TA.

  • And, finally, check your email!

Once you have figured out all of the mechanics and logistics, you’ll be in a place where you can fully focus on learning, and thrive as an online student. Best wishes for a successful and rewarding online learning experience!

How Online Courses Work

What’s the difference between online and remote classes?

    • Remote courses are in-person courses temporarily offered in the remote format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They still have regular class meeting times, which usually take place on Zoom. Online courses were designed to be taught online and are usually mostly asynchronous — that is, there are no set meeting times and students have more flexibility in engaging with the course materials.

How are online courses taught?

    • Online courses are taught using a combination of readings, activities, and pre-recorded video lectures. The content depends on the instructor. Some classes may include exams, while others are more heavily weighted toward writing and activities.

What is the schedule like? Do I have to take exams or be in class at specific times?

    • Depending on the instructor, you may have exams that take place during specific time windows, usually about 24 hours long. Other assignments will have due dates but do not require that you be online at specific times beyond submitting your work by the due dates.

Will I have to attend class sessions on Zoom?

    • Fully online courses do not have synchronous Zoom sessions. Your instructor will likely offer office hours on Zoom, however.

Are online courses easier or harder than face-to-face courses?

    • Online courses are comparable in difficulty to face-to-face classes. Some people find one or the other format to be more challenging; for example, while online courses allow for more flexibility in terms of when you do your work, they also require excellent time management. Online courses may also require more reading or other assignments that replace the time you’d otherwise spend in a classroom with a similar amount of time doing your work for the online course.

Can I do all of the work at the beginning of the course to get it done faster?

    • No. Online courses are not the same as correspondence courses. You’re expected to work through the course material according to the timeline that the instructor has set based on the length of the term.

Can I take [course X] online?

Financial Aid / Enrollment

Can I enroll in a fully-online program at UC Santa Cruz?

  • UC Santa Cruz doesn’t currently offer fully-online undergraduate or graduate programs.

Where do I sign up for online courses?

    • To enroll in any course, visit my.ucsc.edu.

How do I know which courses in the UCSC Schedule of Classes are being taught online?

Show Online and Remote Classes

Show Online Classes Only

Show Asynchronous Classes

To view online-only classes, select ‘Show Online Classes Only’ or ‘Show Asynchronous Classes’. If a class is not listed there, it is remote or in-person.

Do colleges give credit for online courses in the same way that they give credit for a face-to-face course?

    • All for-credit courses at UCSC undergo the same approval process and there is no difference in credit, nor how they show up in the transcript, between in-person and online courses.

Is financial aid available for online courses?

    • Students’ eligibility for financial aid is not affected by the format of the courses they are enrolled in.

Can I take an online course at UCSC if I am normally enrolled at a different school?

    • Students from other University of California campuses can enroll in some courses at other UC campuses. If you are a UC student, visit UC Cross-Campus Enrollment to explore your options. If you are not a UC student, you can enroll in online courses offered by UC Santa Cruz through UC Extension.

How can I get more information about the format of a specific course?

    • You can email the instructor directly by finding their name in the Schedule of Classes and then looking up their email in the UCSC directory. When contacting instructors by email, please be sure to specify which course you’re interested in, as most instructors teach many different courses.

Is [a course I want to take] offered online, and when?

    • Online Education doesn’t have this information. Please consult the department/college for specific questions about scheduling.

Equipment and Materials

What kind of electronic device(s) do I need to take an online course?

    • We strongly recommend that you have a computer or tablet on which you can access Chrome or Firefox. While you may be able to read some course materials on a smartphone, a computer is a more ideal way to write papers and respond to discussions.

Will I need to buy books or are all the course materials online, too?

    • It depends on the instructor. Some instructors may choose all online materials, while others may still prefer that you purchase a traditional textbook. Your instructor should let you know before the course starts if there are any materials you need to have in hand on the first day.

Online Proctoring

I have a question about ProctorU.

Getting Support

How do I get help if I need it?