• Know your course requirements early on. Once you are enrolled in a class, search Canvas for the syllabus and modules. Get to know your class schedule for the semester and know when deadlines are coming.
  • Create a study space to eliminate distractions. Not everyone has a devoted place to study, but it is essential you create a space that allows you to concentrate. Whether it’s a lap desk, a kitchen table, or a comfy chair in your room, focus on creating an environment where you feel comfortable to study and succeed and maintain that space throughout the semester.
  • Practice good time management. A lot of MSU Denver students have jobs, internships, and families that require their time each week. Creating a schedule and holding yourself accountable to spend allocated time on coursework will help learning remain a priority.
  • Get help. MSU Denver offers a variety of student services such as tutoring, supplemental instruction, and advising, so utilize these offices and ask for assistance with any personal problems. Email Online Student Success Services for more information.
  • Find your study style. Do you learn better rewriting your notes multiple times or reading passages from your textbook? Knowing your learning style and using effective methods of studying related to your study style is the best way to learn.

Using Technology in Your Online Courses 

In order to be successful in your online course, it is recommended that you have the following computer and digital information literacy skills:

  • Use the Canvas learning management system. Being able to navigate Canvas is essential, since all your classes will be taught within Canvas. Be sure to complete the Canvas Student Training before classes start.
  • Send an e-mail with attachments. You will likely need to email professors and classmates often, so making sure you know how to do this is essential. Keep in mind the size of the attachment, the type of attachment (word doc vs .pdf vs picture), and who your audience is. Know when to carbon copy (Cc) versus blind  carbon copy (Bcc) other people in your email.
  • Create and submit files in commonly used word processing program formats. Word processing programs help you create, edit, and print documents. There are a few different types of programs depending on your operating system. Examples include: Microsoft Word, Google Docs, AppleWorks, and Apache OpenOffice.
  • Use spreadsheet programs. Your major will determine how often you use spreadsheets, but at some point, you will need to know how to use them. Excel is an incredibly powerful tool for getting meaning out of data, but it also works really well for simple calculations and tracking almost any kind of information. View this tutorial to learn how to get started.
  • Use presentation and graphics programs. Presentation and graphics programs allow you to convey a message by using visually appealing graphs, charts, and images. Examples include PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, and Keynote. This tutorial will teach you how to use PowerPoint, but visit your free account all MSU Denver Students have at LinkedIn Learning to learn about other types of programs.


  • If you fall behind, don’t let it snowball. Contact your instructor or online student success services immediately to catch up – they are there to help you determine how to get back on track.
  • Log in every day. Don’t allow yourself to think, “I can always catch up later.” Be diligent and stay current.
  • Maintain your schedule even though you might have additional flexibility in online courses.
  • Prepare early. Before your online course begins, read the syllabus, review the schedule, and practice navigation in Canvas. All classes are available to you two days before the start of term.
  • Integrate personal and course calendars. Develop a prioritized to-do list with your master calendar. This will help you see the “big picture” of all your academic due dates integrated with your family and work responsibilities. If you see in advance that a particular week is chock full of responsibilities, plan to complete your academic work ahead of time so you can meet your course deadlines.
  • Use built-in tools. Graded course items such as tests, assignments, and graded discussions are automatically added to the Canvas Calendar. You can even import your course calendar into external calendars such as Google Calendar.
  • Utilize your Course Activity Stream daily. add items to your To Do list; see due date reminders and other notifications in your calendar or dashboard view; check your course announcements, discussions, and conversations; and view your latest scores in My Grades.
  • Start the week off right. Before the beginning of each week, review all course activities and assignments that are due in the coming week. If you have questions, ask them early in the week so that you can still complete the work on time.
  • Anticipate technical difficulties. Keep MSU Denver’s help desk phone number (303-352-7548) and website URL at the ready. Since you can access your Canvas course from any internet-connected computer or device, having computer problems isn’t usually an acceptable excuse for late work. Have an alternate method for getting work done, such as using a computer lab or a friend’s laptop.

Time Management

  • Time management is key. Use good time management and planning skills so that you don’t leave your academic work to the last minute.
  • Create a cushion. Often, it’s not a matter of “if” items of a personal nature will infringe on your academic work, but it’s “when” they will occur. Plan ahead and leave yourself a cushion of time each week so that you can complete your weekly coursework even if personal emergencies arise.
  • Set goals. Develop long-term and short-term academic goals, with timeframes, for completing your college work. Whether your goal is to complete a degree, a certificate, or to take a few courses for personal or professional growth, plan the time it will take to meet your goal while handling your other responsibilities. Don’t sign up for more courses than you can reasonably handle.


  • Communicate with your instructor. If you find that you’re dealing with barriers to your learning, contact your professors as soon as possible to let them know the situation. Maintain good communications even when you’re not experiencing problems.
  • Attend virtual office hours. The more you get to know your professor, the better relationship you’ll have. Use this time to talk through specific questions related to the course.
  • Make the most of online discussions. The discussion board is the best place for you to interact with your classmates, so take the time to post thoughtful responses, questions, or comments. You will have the most success if you participate in the online discussions regularly.
  • Share your camera and mic in class. Classes can be more engaging if you have your camera and microphone on during class to help you pay attention. Be aware and respectful of your professor and classmates by being aware of your surroundings when you are attending class and following your instructors’ preferences related to cameras and microphones.
  • Check email, Canvas, and Teams often.
    • Email/Canvas: Check your email and Canvas at least once a day. When you check your  emails, reply the best you can – even with a “I will get back to you at X time” if you are  too busy to respond in the moment. Email your professor if you have a question.
    • Teams: Look through any Teams general posts you might have missed and reply to any  @ or direct messages. Decide when it’s relevant to reply with a reaction vs a written  reply. Set up a time to talk if it takes more than 3-4 messages to convey your point.

Your Online Community

You may have taken some online courses before, and you also likely have experience with some form of electronic communication, but an online course is a newer way of learning and has its own unique form of social interaction. This guide is intended to be an overview of the customary practices for interaction in this new environment.

  • Be mindful of your professor and peers. Participating in an online class means you are still in a professional setting, regardless of where you are physically. Classes can be more engaging if you have your camera and microphone on, but remember that your fellow students and professors are real people and can be affected by your actions in an online class the same way they would be in person. It is essential to keep in mind the feelings and opinions of others, even if they differ from your own.
  • Be aware of strong language, all caps, and exclamation points. Tone and facial queues are not present in virtual communication and your written message can be misunderstood. Being aware of how your message is written can go a long way in ensuring that your audience fully understands your intention with your message.
  • Use humor and sarcasm when relevant. An online class can be just as enjoyable as being on-campus so it’s important to let your personality shine through. Many professors use humor to make the class more enjoyable, but the message can also get misinterpreted in an online setting. Make sure your audience knows when you are joking. Emojis can be helpful when conveying humor or sarcasm within a discussion boards or a class chat, but it’s always a good idea to read the room when responding. Even though emojis are a great way to get a point across quickly, they should not be used in academic papers or research.
  • Grammar and spelling matters. Your written communication should be professional and reflect the virtual learning environment. Since online classes are within an educational setting, it’s always a good idea to follow the lead on the level of formality and professionalism from your professor. Generally, texting shortcuts are not appropriate in an online classroom.
  • Always cite your sources. Just like any academic paper, if you reference another source, cite it. Even if you do not quote the reference word for word, it’s important to show that not all the ideas you posted were your own. This is just as important in discussion boards as research papers.
  • Share appropriate material. All posted content in a virtual classroom is content intended for education and should reflect the professional tone of any classroom. Do not post inappropriate content.

Sources for Tips for Online Students

Canvas Community Student Guide

Fetzner, M. (2013). What Do Unsuccessful Online Students Want Us To Know? Jan 17(1), 13-27.

Roper, A. (2007). How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Educause Quarterly. Nov (2007), 62-65.


Sources for Your Online Community

Albion, (2015). The Core Rules of Netiquette — Excerpted from Netiquette by Virginia Shea — Retrieved 1 June 2020, from

Connor, P., (2015). Netiquette: Ground Rules for Online Discussions. Retrieved 1 June 2020, from

Madison College, (2015). Online Etiquette Guide | Madison Area Technical College. Retrieved 1 June 2020, from