Being a successful online student will take practice and dedication. If this is your first experience with online learning, you might not be sure what to expect, or you might have concerns about how to be successful in this new environment. Our students thrive with the flexibility online education provides them. However, successful online learning requires that you tailor your study habits to the online learning environment.


In ISS courses you’ll be able to complete all of your coursework online, without ever coming into campus or meeting in person with your classmates or instructors. Rest assured, you will interact with your classmates and instructors, but these interactions will be facilitated through online tools. 

So what does online learning look like in ISS? The following are the key features of our program that you will want to understand and embrace in order to be a successful online student.

  • Course pacing - Our classes are set up with an asynchronous pacing. Usually this means students will be given modules to complete within a certain time frame (usually weekly). As long as assignments are in by the deadline, students can complete the work when it makes sense for their schedule.

  • Interactions with Classmates - While the potential is there for some students to feel isolated in an online environment, most students typically find that they are able to develop enriching relationships with classmates through discussion, group assignments, and peer review.  Some students set up study groups online or even meet up in person. ISS also hosts a student-centered Facebook group, an ISS Facebook page, and an ISS Linked In profile. You can check out these offerings on our Stay Connected page.

  • Interaction with Instructors - Communication with your instructors happens in a number of ways. Faculty often send important announcements and reminders via the announcement tool in Canvas. Often faculty will participate in course discussions, and they provide feedback on assignments, too. If you would like to communicate directly with your instructor, you may use your UW email address or the messaging system within Canvas. Some instructors may be available for phone conversations or video chats via Zoom or other services. Each instructor will have her/his own preferred method of communicating with you, so be sure to pay attention to what they say about contacting them and how they will provide assignment feedback. This information is usually in the course syllabus.

  • Time - Sometimes students think that online courses take less time than campus-based courses, but typically the opposite is true. Although you do not need to come to campus for lectures, it is crucial that students dedicate enough time to watch lectures, complete reading assignments, and participate in discussions on a regular basis to understand the material and be successful. Official UW policy is that one course credit equates to 3 hours of time commitment by the student for each week of the quarter. That means you will need to spend an average of 6 hours per week on a 2-credit course and a whopping 15 hours per week for a 5-credit course! See our Time Management Tips for Online Students in ISS for more information on how to use your time to become a successful online student.

  • Student-centered course design - Our online classes are designed with a student-centered approach. Rather than use a “sage on the stage” model, we’ve found that students are more engaged when they are able to explore small chunks of material in different formats. While you may be assigned short video lectures, much of your learning will happen through readings and interactive assignments. For example, in an on-campus course you may not talk every week about your individual thoughts related to the course material, but in many online courses students must demonstrate their understanding of the material through regular interaction in discussion forums.

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