Tips from a former NOVA Online Student

Today’s blog is provided by student blogger Aly! Aly has taken a combination of on-campus and online courses throughout her time at NOVA and graduated from NOVA this summer. Aly has provided current and future NOVA Online students with some tips to help students get started in fall classes.

If you are anything like me, trying to keep up with the obligations and requirements of a college course can become somewhat of a task – quite especially if you are enrolled in an online course. Participating in an online course means that, as a student, you will be given much more responsibility over your progress and performance in the class. Not to say that students who attend in-person lectures have it any easier, but I have learned through my experience that not having a professor to meet with on a regular basis required me to be much more attentive to the structure of the class. This includes knowing what the due dates are for assignments in the course, maintaining a study plan, forming a relationship with the instructor, checking email regularly, and preparing for exams.

To help guide you to successful completion of your online course, I have included several measures that I found useful for keeping me in tip-top shape throughout my online course. Below is my recommended approach to staying up-to-date and prepared, not only throughout the semester, but throughout your entire academic experience as an online student:

Knowing Assignment Due Dates

  •  Review the syllabus. This is perhaps the most important element of achieving success in an online course. As a NOVA Online student, I was always sure to do this on the first day of the course (or even sooner if my instructor opened the course in Blackboard a few days early). This allowed me to become familiar with the structure of the course, and also helped me form an understanding of what my assignments throughout the semester would require (i.e. amount of time, research, etc.).
  • Keep a planner or calendar containing assignment due dates. Admittedly, taking the time to write down each and every assignment into a planner or on a calendar can seem rather tedious and redundant. However, you’ll be thanking yourself for doing so in the long run. By including your due date in a planner or on a calendar, you are essentially creating a second reminder for yourself aside from the course syllabus. Also, wherever you decide to write down these reminders, make sure that you do so in a place that you frequently view. I have always found setting automatic reminders on my cell phone (or another electronic device), and including a link to the course syllabus to be very helpful!
  • Make habit of going over the syllabus at the start of each week. Again, this too might seem particularly redundant – especially since you have already taken this measure at the start of the course. By making habit of this practice, you will be able to assure yourself that you are less likely to miss assignment deadlines and you set yourself up for a successful week.

Forming a Relationship with your Instructor

  • Send the instructor an email at the start of the course. As a student, this is this best way to address any initial concerns that you might hold in relation to the course. I have also found that sending my instructor a friendly email at the start of the semester to be a good practice to follow in introducing myself and becoming acquainted with the instructor. In doing this, you are showing your instructor that you are dedicated, as this will also make it far easier to approach your instructor in the future if need be. You can obtain your instructor’s contact information by referring to the quick start syllabus that you received in the postal mail prior to the course start date.
  • Voice your questions or concerns. There is always the chance that new questions or concerns may pop-up throughout the entirety of the course. In this case, do not hesitate to contact your instructor once again. When sending an email make sure to use your VCCS student email, sign your full name, and use your course information in the subject line (ex. SDV 100 – E60L).

If you ever find that you are having difficulty getting in touch with your instructor, or encounter an instructor that is unresponsive to your emails, visit the webpage for NOVA’s Student Services Division to be placed in contact with an individual who can help you resolve this matter.

Checking Emails and Blackboard Regularly

•  Make use of your student email account. This is perhaps the most commonly neglected aspect of being a student. While this task is important for every student to make habit of, it is especially important for NOVA Online students to do so. Keep in mind, that as a NOVA Online student, a majority (if not all) of the communication between you and your instructor will be via email. Instructors frequently send out announcements and assignment updates by email.

Overall, I have learned that checking your student email account ( and Blackboard on a regular basis is essential to success as a NOVA Online student.

Preparing for Exams

  • Review what is covered on the exam and study accordingly. Again, as you will not be meeting with your instructor for in-person lectures, it is necessary to make note of important course dates. This includes course exam dates, which I have learned are best to prepare for at least a week in advance. Also, be sure to refer to either your syllabus or Blackboard for what is to be covered on each examine, as your instructor will not always remind you!
  • Plan ahead for how you will take your NOVA Online exams. All NOVA Online courses require proctored exams or assignments. A proctored exam means the exam will need to be supervised by a testing administrator. You can take your proctored exams at any NOVA campus testing center, at a testing location in your area if out of the Northern Virginia area (VCCS Testing Center), or through ProctorU if allowed for your course. More testing policies can be found on NOVA Online’s Website.

In providing this brief overview, all NOVA Online students must also keep in mind that proficiency and achievement in each course heavily relies upon effort, dedication, and determination on the student’s behalf. With this being said, this post has provided students with a general outline of practices to follow in developing a strong foundation for academic success.

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