Preparing for Online Learning

Drawing of a student writing on paper while sitting behind an open laptop computer.

Preparing for Online Learning

Online courses allow you to learn whenever, wherever, and however works best for you, making it easier to earn your degree or certificate while balancing work and family commitments. And without having to attend classes in person, online learning lets you access programs and courses that might have otherwise been inaccessible or highly inconvenient.

Online classes can present unique challenges, however, if you’re not prepared. But if you develop skills for effective online learning, you’ll find the courses can be an excellent alternative to a traditional classroom setting.

California Community Colleges Online Learning Overview from FoundationCCC on Vimeo.

Do you have the technology you need for online learning?

Take a computer readiness test and test your Internet speed

Several companies throughout California are offering free or low-cost internet access to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AT&TAT&T is providing unlimited data to home internet customers through June 30. Additionally, limited income households may continue to take advantage of $10 per month internet access via the  Access from AT&T program. 
California ConnectsCalifornia Community Colleges students are eligible for this eligible for this mobile hotspot servicepowered by Sprint, which offers nationwide 4G LTE connectivity and allows users to connect up to 10 WiFi enabled devices for up to 10 hours on a single charge for only $19.99 a month.
CharterCharter is offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi accessfor 60 days to households college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Additionally, all WiFi hotspots are now free of charge.
ComcastEffective Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is offering two months of free to Internet service through the Internet Essentials program. This offer is available to new and existing customers.
T-MobileT-Mobile is increasing the data allowance for free to schools and students using its EmpowerED digital learning program to ensure each participant has access to at least 20GB of data per month through June 30, 2020.
SprintSprint is providing unlimited data for 60 days to customers with metered data plans and giving 20 GB of free mobile hotspot to customers with hotspot-capable devices.
VerizonVerizon is waiving late fees and suspending service termination for customers negatively impacted by the global crisis.



Do you need financial support?

Financial aid and other forms of assistance are available for students. In addition to the resources below, check with your local financial aid office.


Are you taking care of your health and wellness?

These are difficult times. People are more stressed, worried, and tired. Online learning is harder if your body and mind are working at lower levels. Now, more than ever, you need to take care of yourself. Use the resources below to find health and wellness services and resources:

California Community Colleges Health & Wellness Resources from FoundationCCC on Vimeo.


Do you know how to use Canvas?

The California Community Colleges (CCC) have adopted Canvas as the system's Common Course Management System (CCMS). This means that even if you take a class at more than one CCC, you will use the same platform to access your classes. If this is your first time taking an online class, you may want to watch some of these short videos to get started.[two_third]

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Do you know how to access online support services?

Colleges aren’t just moving courses online – student services are online now too. The California Community Colleges system has several system-wide tools available to help smooth the transition.


California Community Colleges Online Learning Tools from FoundationCCC on Vimeo.

California Community Colleges Online Learning Student Support Resources from FoundationCCC on Vimeo.


How do you communicate with your instructors?

  • Check your campus email (or the account where you forward your campus email)
  • Check your course announcements in Canvas. Reply to an announcement with any questions if something about it is not clear.
  • Use the Canvas inbox to contact your instructor or email your instructor if you have additional questions.
  • Ask for what you need! Your instructor can’t tell when you have questions, so reach out and ask for help. You might not normally do this, but these are not normal times. Your teachers know you have the ability to succeed and want to help you do that! Here are some examples:
    • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what to do.
    • Ask for accommodations. If you are registered with your campus disability support program and have already requested accommodations, make sure those accommodations are made online--just like they were in the classroom. 
    • Ask for help connecting with group members in your class.
    • Ask to submit assignments in an alternate format. For example, if you’re using your smartphone to take classes, ask to use Google docs for your essays instead of Microsoft Word.
    •  Ask for deadline extensions.
  • To help your instructor, include these details no matter what:
    • List the course name in the subject line.
    • Introduce yourself with your full name.
    • Make your question(s) as specific as possible.
    • Tell your instructor what you tried before contacting him/her.


How do you review course content and materials online?

  • Our Online Reading Strategies tutorial has several good tips.
  • Before you start reading a textbook or watching a video lecture, list a few key questions that you think the material will answer.
  • Take notes as you go. Write down new words to look up and questions you have about the topic.
  • Pause videos or stop reading every 10 to 15 minutes. The brain needs time to take in new information.
  • When you get to the end, it’s helpful to summarize readings or videos to help determine if you understood the main concepts.
  • Purdue University Global's How to Create the Perfect Study Environment for Online Learning"article discusses creating a study environment for online learning that minimizes distractions and puts you in the mindset to concentrate
  • If you need another perspective, supplement your class materials with other online resources


How do you engage with other students online?

  • Participate in forum discussions. Visit discussions more than once. Reply to different classmates each time and respond to people who gave you feedback on your post.
  • Be active in group projects. Group dynamics sometimes change when the group is online. Some students wait for classmates to take the lead, so help your group to get started, get organized and get the project done. 
  • Collect contact information from friends and classmates so you can talk to each other about how you are doing, as well as school projects and assignments.
  • The article 4 Ways to Avoid Isolation as an Online Student provides tips for staying engaged.


How do you complete course assignments online?

  • Looking for a more effective way to study? It’s more effective to break up your studying for exams into daily chunks, rather than cram for a long time at the last minute! Use the Quizlet website or app to create digital flashcards and share them with your classmates. You can also search for flashcard sets by topic.
  • Ready to turn in your work? Submit an assignment in Canvas
  • Did your teacher assign a quiz? Take a quiz in Canvas
  • Ready to participate in a discussion? Reply to your teacher’s discussion prompt
  • Need help with an assignment or homework?
    • Contact a librarian at your college for help conducting research.
    • Get help from an online tutor.


Additional Resources and Support

  • The OWL, online essay writing support
    • Through the The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University students will find information to assist with many writing projects.  The OWL houses writing resources and instructional material, as well as writing support video workshops. They are provided as a free service.
  • Adobe Distance Learning Tools
    • Now, through May 31, 2020, Adobe is giving all higher education and K-12 customers who use Creative Cloud apps in schools logins for students who will be working at home.
  •  Studyblue, online test preparation tool
    • Helps college students prepare for tests with handy online flashcards, excellent resources for organizing class notes, and more.
  • eFollet, online book rentals for college students
    • Buy or rent required books for your classes with no hassle (not all CCCs participate).
  • PDF document Converter
    •  Allows students to convert any file to PDF in seconds.
  • Wolfram Alpha -Online source of and info for class assignments
    • A site that allows students to do calculations of all kinds, including math, science, and more. Wolfram Alpha has a seemingly endless source of facts, data, and information to help get you through your class assignments.
  • Quizlet, online study help
    • Helps college students study for literally any class you may be taking by offering simple, free learning tools like flashcards, games, and more.
  • Google Drive
    •  Google Drive is a free service that allows you to create, store, and access files from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection. You can also create files that can be edited by multiple people, so it’s a must-have for group projects.
  • Carnegie Learning iCulture, online language immersion tool
    • A cultural immersion resource for Spanish, French and German language learners, is available free through the end of the school year.

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This work by California Virtual Campus - Online Education Initiative, a project by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Copyright © 2024 by California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office