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How to Prepare for Online Classes

by Monica Smith

Aug 05, 2019, 9:00 AM.

10 ways to stay on track.

With most things, the first time is usually the hardest—especially when you don’t know what to expect. For Florida International University’s fully online students, the first semester can be bumpy if they don’t prepare themselves. Taking the extra initiative to organize can mean the difference between a fair grade and an excellent one. The areas that are frequently missed? Time management and technology issues. The following list compiles all of the things you need to know to make your performance online as successful as it can be.

1. Calendar

It doesn’t matter if you’re old-school and prefer a paper agenda or an online native and like to set digital reminders, the idea is simply to ensure you know what’s coming and how long you have to prepare for it. Canvas, the platform used to access courses, offers a very user-friendly calendar and many students find it convenient.

2. Canvas App

Canvas can also be set up to send push notifications and can be accessed with a very easy-to-use mobile app, which makes all classes truly portable. Send emails, check assignments, and if you really need to, draft a discussion post from your phone.

3. Microsoft Tools

One of the perks of being an FIU student is free access to the technology you need to stay on track. Students can install Microsoft Office on a total of up to five personal computers and 10 mobile devices. To download your free copy today, visit and log-in with your FIU username and password.

4. Zoom

FIU encourages the use of Zoom, which can help with group projects. Zoom is FIU’s official web conferencing application for real-time course lectures, meetings, and tutoring. With Zoom, you can meet with group members for projects and assignments, work on homework with classmates, record a presentation, schedule online tutoring, host a meeting for a club or organization. All currently registered FIU students are eligible to access Zoom through a Pro license. To create your Zoom account, visit and log-in with your FIU username and password.

5. Panther Den

Within the Canvas dashboard, all students have access to Panther Den. Panther Den is the FIU Online portal that offers direct access to some of the most useful resources the university offers. Through Panther Den, students can become aware of university news with student media. Students may also find and subscribe to tutoring resources, exercise videos, podcasts, and more. Additionally, Panther Den features information on FIU’s online success coaches, counseling and psychological services, as well as safety.

6. SmarThinking

SmarThinking gives online degree-seeking students access to online tutoring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. SmarThinking fits into your schedule—whenever you need it most.

7. Online Grammar Software

Avoid losing points for misspells and grammar! Many free grammar apps exist to help make sure your text is error-free. Consider adding one to your device to help you with your postings and to review your papers.

8. Time Issues

While online programs give you the flexibility to study on your own time, it is important to dedicate time each week to focus and work on required readings, assignments and discussions. Create a routine and stick to it.

Another thing to consider with online degree programs is while they are portable, when you travel, the time zone is not. So, if you go to California for a business trip, which is three hours earlier than Miami, FL, time (EST), you may miss your course assignment deadline. 

Also, when you first enroll, scan your syllabus and make note of major assignments. Think about your obligations coming up and if there might be a conflict. For example, many working business students, such as those who work in accounting, may be busier during tax season, so it may be wise to avoid a heavy load of classes during that semester.

Finally, if you have time concerns, contact your instructor. They understand that life may get in the way and may be able to align deadlines or provide you with options based on your personal situation.

9. Netiquette

Netiquette includes the unspoken rules and norms practiced when interacting with others through the internet so that communication is considerate and respectful. Be mindful of what you post and who will see your postings.

10. LMS or Internet Down

Aside from digital behavior and communication, students can receive technical support 24/7 if they have trouble with Canvas. FIU Online representatives will help you navigate your specific concerns and document your issues in case you need special arrangements. Also, if your area has Wi-Fi connectivity issues, consider back-up plans.  

There are many ways to prepare for your online experience with FIU. These are just 10 of the best ideas. While no two online experiences are alike, with a little preparation, your experience can be seamless because you’ll know what to expect.

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