Succeeding as An Online Grad Student

Online learning is just as tough, if not tougher, than on-site learning. Courses might even take more of your time than their in-person versions. Also, earning your online graduate certificate or master's degree means completing (and keeping track of) several forms and taking a lot of steps. However, the good news is that as an online student, you have the ability to fit your program around your work, life, and other responsibilities.

Furthermore, you can succeed at online learning and finish your program in a timely manner if you practice good online learning habits, respect important deadlines, and know when to get help and access important resources.

Developing Good Online Learning Habits

Taking courses online obviously requires self discipline, time management skills, intrinsic motivation, and other habits and traits.

We've also compiled a list of tips that should help make your online learning journey easier.

  • Get started right away. Acquire textbooks and any required materials as soon as possible.
  • Check your technology. You will be completing all your work online, so make sure you have reliable access to adequate technology and resources.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Learning Management System you will be using. If you haven't done so yet, or have been out of school for a while, watch the video about Canvas.
  • Get your free software. Before you buy any needed software for your courses, visit the Software Distribution Center, which may have a free version.
  • Manage your schedule. Just like your job, dedicate specific times to working on your course. Doing so will prevent others from disturbing you, keep you on pace, and help you avoid the stress of falling behind.
  • Remember deadlines. Online courses at Michigan Tech are not "learn at your own pace." There are deadlines for assignments, discussions, and so on.
  • Find a quiet place. Allocate a specific quiet, distraction-free area for working on your course. 
  • Study hard! Read and view course materials carefully and closely, taking ample notes.
  • Plan, plan, plan. Power goes out, computers crash, and files get destroyed. Plan ahead to meet these and other challenges with calmness and resourcefulness. 
  • Communicate regularly with your classmates and your instructor. Online classroom communities, though they take a bit of work, are important to learning success.
  • Participate enthusiastically in course discussions and activities.
  • Be proactive! Don't be afraid to email your instructor if you have inquiries about the course or the materials. If you are stuck, reach out right away. Attend any recommended or optional online office hours. Sometimes a quick Zoom call will sort out everything.
  • Follow the Graduate School and MTU's policies for students. There are a number of policies on maintaining academic standing, respecting academic integrity, and conducting yourself professionally, which you must know about and follow.
Watch Time Management video
Preview image for Time Management video

Time Management

Time management is a key to academic success.

More Tips for Time Management

All Student Policies

Watch Academic Integrity video
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Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is an important component to online learning.

Respecting Deadlines and Submitting Forms

From choosing your courses to registering on time to paying your bills and more, being a student in the Michigan Tech Graduate School means contending with a lot of forms and deadlines. In fact, along with working hard and studying, submitting forms in a timely manner is essential for students to excel online and to complete their degree requirements.

Here are some tips for forms and deadlines to keep you on track:

  • Read about the forms and deadlines required for both prospective and current students. This page also contains various links to special purpose forms, which you may need during the course of your degree.
  • Consult the page on the various degree and non-degree requirements. There are not only broad differences between graduate certificate and master's programs, but also more detailed different requirements for various master's degrees.
  • Plan ahead for the completion requirements for your chosen degree. That is, there are different requirements for coursework, report-based, and thesis MS degrees. This page also informs you about the deadlines and forms for each semester of your chosen degree program. Keep in mind that there is info on this page for all grad students, so use that which is relevant only for online students. (You don't need health insurance or a parking permit, for instance.)
  • Check MyMichiganTech regularly; it contains both a checklist of items needed and a comprehensive list of items pending and completed for each degree.
  • Read your emails; the Michigan Tech Graduate School and Global Campus will send you reminders about registration, bill payment, and other topics.
  • Bookmark the Graduate School's page in Policies and Procedures and consult it regularly. 
  • Reach out to your program's assistant and/or the staff at the Graduate School if you have concerns and questions about forms and deadlines.


"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success."Alexander Graham Bell

Getting Help and Accessing Resources

First and foremost, it is crucial that you keep in contact with your program's advisor and/or assistant, as well as the Michigan Tech Graduate School. Don't be afraid to contact these people. And, we can't stress this point enough: read the emails they send you!

Along with this individualized help, there are also several resources that are available for all Michigan Tech students, whether they are attending online or on-site.

The Michigan Tech site, because it tries to accommodate so many students' needs, is huge. And growing still! So here we have accrued some of the most commonly consulted resources for graduate students.

Young man working on his online course in an office area.

Moving From a Certificate to an MS Degree

Let's say you started with an online graduate certificate to get a taste of advanced education. But now you're still hungry for more learning and want to keep going to develop additional expertise, knowledge, and skills. What do you do? Where can you get help?

The Michigan Tech Global Campus has a dedicated Graduate Admissions Advisor, Amanda Irwin, who can assist you. Amanda, who has over a decade of admissions experience, can help you decide which additional certificates complement the one you've already earned. Alternatively, she can help you transition to a master's program, which may help you access even more benefits.

Amanda Irwin, the Graduate Admissions Advisor for Global Campus, representing Michigan Tech at an event.

Amanda can get you in touch with a program director, guide you through the application process, and answer tough questions (or direct you to someone who knows the answers).

You can call her at 906-487-1000, email her, or make an appointment on her calendar.

Email Amanda

Make an Appointment on Amanda's Calendar

Michigan Tech offers students a rich online learning environment and learning management system (LMS) in Canvas to optimize their learning for each course within their chosen curriculum.

Guy Hembroff, Associated Professor, Applied Computing
Guy Hembroff
Associate Professor, College of Computing and Health Informatics Graduate Program Director