Issues in Using the Internet in Instruction:

Hints on being a successful Internet student

The distance is nothing; it's only the first step that is difficult. Mme. du Deffand

Being an Internet student is like learning to ride a horse. You need a willingness to explore, patience, practice, and the ability to recognize your limits.

Time Management

  1. Structure your time-- plan a reasonable schedule and protect it. Let others know you are "in class" and can no more be disturbed than if you were in a physical classroom. Students report that at first they cycle between spending too much time and too little time on the course. Expect an adjustment period and be patient with yourself.
  2. Space your learning over several days. You need time to absorb the material and reflect on it if you want to learn it well.
  3. One tip from a student is to respect ending times. When time is up for a session, "turn off" the machine. She says you are more likely then to return to the task. In the information age, the secret to success is knowing when to stop. Use a kitchen timer if necessary.
  4. Sickness: In a face-to-face class, you would have minimal "make-up" work to do. In an Internet class, I've noticed students don't compensate for illness but still expect to be able to be fully involved. This can lead to a snowball effect of getting further and further behind. Make a conscious choice about what must be done for later elements of the course and what would be nice to do but simply can't be done.
Return to top


  1. Several report that trying to learn with young children in the house is very difficult. Wait until they are in bed or seek a more private connection.
  2. You may need to teach children to respect your learning time. For young children, ask them to not disturb you for a few minutes (1 minute per age), then reward them with attention if they have waited. You may have to explain what you mean by "disturb." Gradually increase the time by 1 minute per study session. If they interrupt, don't punish them, but don't give in and play either. If you do play with them when they disturb you, they will interrupt you more and more. These principles can be adapted for older children.
  3. Older children could be involved in your study time. Explaining what you learned in appropriate language can help you remember it and help your child feel involved. You can show them that you value learning.
Return to top

Effective Learning

  1. Be an active learner:
    1. Ask questions of yourself while reading (perhaps keep a journal),
    2. Seek out discussion with others in the class-- on line or on the phone or face-to-face if that is possible,
    3. Ask questions in the discussion groups.
    4. Don't let yourself get isolated. Motivation seems to be harder to achieve on line. Motivation comes from interacting with others.
  2. If you are having difficulty reading on screen,
    • Maximize the size of your browser,
    • Alter the fonts your browser is using, or
    • Print out a copy. Almost everyone prints out longer pieces for leisurely reading.
    • Read in shorter time segments, looking away from the screen periodically.
    • Pause to reflect on what you are reading.
    • Reading from a screen is a skill that can improve with practice. I have noticed that in the early part of the semester students often do not read carefully enough. By the end of the term I hardly ever need to repeat instructions.
  3. When surfing for learning, don't follow links randomly. Rather adopt a pattern (hitting links top down or bottom up) to help you keep your place.

Return to top

Coping with Technology

  1. If you are trying out a new technology, one of the first things you should learn is how to exit it. That information is sometimes given in the initial greeting to the material and never again.
  2. Expect to experiment.
  3. Take it in small doses-- take vacations from technology. You'll usually find the answer once you are away from the machine.
  4. While a computer may seem arbitrary, it is too stupid to be so. Arbitrariness takes free will and a computer doesn't have it, evidence to the contrary aside. Learn to observe your actions immediately prior to a freeze up or other mysterious action. They may give a helper an important clue. This doesn't mean you are at fault. Programmers may have done a poor job of cueing you ... or the programmer may have been arbitrary.
  5. Computers are a moderately complex device, contrary to advertisements. It does take some effort to achieve proficiency. Fortunately, because computers are so dumb, they are endlessly patient so you can try and try and try and try and try and try and try..... Being moderately complex, sometimes they just overwhelm themselves and freeze up-- it isn't you. Computers can't handle as many simultaneous actions as you can. They just shut down sometimes. Just close it down and start over. And remember to save your work frequently.

Return to top

Appropriate Behavior/Netiquette

  1. If there is an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) file, read it.
  2. Treat fellow "netizens" as if you were seeing them face-to-face plus a bit more patience. You lose nonverbal signals on-line and thus communication is a bit harder. Although an interaction may seem unreal, there usually is a live person on the other end somewhere.
  3. Be courteous. Speak in haste and repent in leisure. Wait overnight before posting a reply if you are angry or upset.
  4. Be patient. We are all learning.
  5. Courteous E-mail: Sign your name. Use the subject line effectively. And a salutation is nice, though perhaps less necessary.
  6. Treat E-mail as if it were a postcard. Unknown persons can get access to E-mail messages, although they probably won't for most purposes. Nevertheless, follow the rule of thumb: if you wouldn't want your postal carrier reading it, don't E-mail it. Use the phone or face-to-face.
  7. Read these Guidelines for Effective Group Interactions (netiquet.htm)
  8. Expect to mess up sometimes and be patient with yourself....and with others newer than you.

Return to top


  1. Suggestions from Internet students are welcome and will be added.
  2. Study Tips for Successful Distance Learning from Peterson's (

Return to top

Orientation Page |Psy 501 Information | My Home Page | FaCET Home Page | WKU Home Page

Contact the author with comments or questions about this site by following the directions at this page (which will open in a new window.)
Created: January 26, 1998. Last Modified: Saturday, December 2, 2000 4:47 PM.
All contents © since 1997 by Sally Kuhlenschmidt. Please let me know if you use this.