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What To Expect Your First Day of Online Class   

September 23, 2015 by Kelly Paul |

Online Student at Computer

Yes, you did it! You decided to attend college online and now you’re an online college student. Your first day of class is approaching and a million questions hit you:

  • How does the first day work?
  • When can I see the syllabus?
  • What will class be like?
  • Am I ready?
  • I’ve never done this before – help! 

Okay, that last one wasn’t a question, but you see where I’m going with this. Returning to college can be scary – and doing it in a way (online) you haven’t done before? That can take make it frightening.

So here is some information that can help you have GREAT first day of online class.

Be Available

Put aside a couple of times during the first day to login to your class so you can check out the syllabus. All your classes may be scheduled to start on a particular day, but each professor may have a different time that day when his or her class goes live, so it’s important you check often until all your classes are present. If, at the end of the day a class isn’t present contact your professor or advisor.


Each college and university is different, but generally all your courses will be contained in a learning management platform such as Blackboard, Canvas or Sakai - to mention a few. If you don’t know how to login contact your program manager or advisor PRONTO! This means you should pick up the phone and call. Yes, a voice call. You can also check your college or university’s website for training videos on how to login to class.

Read the Syllabus

Read the syllabus. Really. Seriously read it. Many professors' first quiz in the class will be on the syllabus. This is so he or she knows that you know what all is in there – as it’s valuable information.

The syllabus will tell you course expectations, required coursework, course schedule, grading policies, how and when to contact the professor, etc.

Introduce Yourself

The first thing most online course professors will have you do is go to a specific area of the discussion board within the course and share a little bit of information about yourself. Yes, write an introduction.

It’s important to remember this isn’t Facebook. Those reading your post are not your friends – though they may be in the future. They are your classmates and your professor. It’s important to use correct grammar and spelling (most discussion boards have spell and grammar check - yay!).

Pay attention to how the professor asks you to introduce yourself. He or she may ask for educational background, why you’re taking the course, what you most want to learn, what you’re most afraid of, or it may be wide open for you to introduce yourself however you want to. Follow the instructions and think of it like a cocktail party, coffee gathering or work meeting – be you.

Meet Your Classmates

Your classmates will be introducing themselves just as you will. Respond to their introductions. Is someone from a town you once lived in? If so, let him or her know. Is someone interested in a topic you are? Respond with your interest. You’re going to be learning with these people for some time so get to know them. They won’t bite – I promise.

For tips on discussion board etiquette – check out our blog.

Plan Your Calendar

Review the syllabus for upcoming readings, assignments and due dates and plan your calendar. Plan for the immediate week and subsequent weeks. Schedule out what you’re going to do and when. Note if there are any times where you will have a conflict so you can develop a plan now to deal with it.

One online class I had required me to live blog the week I was supposed to be on vacation. I immediately connected with my professor and he let me do the live blog a week early. Your professor may not allow you to reschedule based on your conflict, but you’ll know now that you need to figure out a work around. In this case, my plan was to live blog something about my vacation while on vacation.


Take a breath. Returning to college is exciting and overwhelming. It’s easy to jump in with all you have but you need to remember it’s also like an endurance race. You do not want to burn out early – you want to learn and finish your degree.

For all you online class alumni - what tips for the first day do you have to share?


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 Photo courtesy of Death to Stock.

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