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Preparing for Online Learning

Being a Successful Online Student

While online courses are convenient and flexible, they also requires a combination of skills to succeed academically. Students must be self-motivated, disciplined and have strong time-management skills:

1. Before the semester begins, read over the syllabus carefully, and make note of due dates for required daily/weekly assignments. Understand the expectations of the course before it begins, and make sure that you can effectively budget your time accordingly, balancing your studies with work, family and personal obligations.

2. Online students must feel comfortable expressing themselves in writing, as some classes only require written assignments (while others combine essays with other forms of assessment like online quizzes).

3. Be proactive in asking and responding to questions from your instructor, as well as other students. Unlike a large traditional classroom, there's no hiding in an online classroom environment, and staying engaged in the learning process (including asking for help when you need it!) is especially important.

4. Online learning does not mean you'll be on your own, working independently. Many online courses require group projects, interactive discussion boards, and instant chat. Building relationships with your peers (even in an online environment) can help you build a network of support and be more successful in your studies.

5. Online students must be comfortable with their computers, and have access to a reliable high-speed internet connection. They must have knowledge of word processing software, web browsing and e-mail, know how to download and install a program from the web, and in some courses, know how to upload items from the PC to the web or have other technical expertise. Course descriptions will note if students are required to have a higher level of computer ability.

6. Review your syllabus to see which learning platform(s) your course will use, and test your connections to them before the intersession begins. If enrolling in a fully online course while in another nation, determining your access to all course materials in advance is especially important.

7. Make sure you have access to a good study environment, free from distractions like television and video games.

8. Focus on your course work. It is easy to get distracted while working in an online environment, and tempting to browse unrelated websites and social media platforms. While it's important to take breaks from time-to-time, be wary of online distractions that obstruct productive learning.

9. Keep your behavior professional, and treat your instructor and peers with respect. Even in an online environment, students are still expected to abide by Stony Brook's code of conduct, and bullying, intimidating, or threatening others will not be permitted.

10. Some courses may require in-person examinations at Stony Brook University or an off-site facility. Be sure to read over the notes on your course in the SOLAR System at the time of registration.

Most online courses (though not all) use Blackboard, Stony Brook University's learning management system (LMS). Blackboard includes a variety of features that allow instructors and students to do anything from uploading course documents, to posting an announcement, to collecting and grading assignments. Blackboard is available 24/7, from any computer with internet access. Instructors of online courses frequently use Blackboard to:
  • Post online announcements
  • Post course content (ex: syllabi, videos, podcasts, handouts, presentations, etc.)
  • Send e-mails to students
  • Pose questions for online discussions
  • Collect and grade assignments/assessments
  • Manage your grades and/or make them visible to you
  • Create groups for discussions and projects
  • And much more...

Blackboard Mobile
Blackboard's Learn App can be downloaded on many smartphones and tablets:

Video Tutorials

Student Resources
Technical Assistance

Students that need help with Blackboard or any other technical issues related to their online course can contact the TLT Student Help Desk during normal, weekday daytime hours by calling (631) 632-9602, e-mailing, or by using the TLT Student Help Desk Live Chat feature.

For after-hours and weekend assistance, students can receive support from Open SUNY by e-mailing or calling: (800) 875-6269.

IT Orientation Guide

Division of Information Technology prepared the following guide, outlining the major tools which students in Stony Brook are using, including Solar System, Wireless Network WolfieNet, Academic Tools, such as Blackboard, etc. To access the guide, please go to

Problem Resolution for Student in Online Programs

For General Student Support Services, please visit Office of Student Affairs.

Students in online programs encountering a problem or grievance about university services should always attempt to resolve the problem with the program director or the student services professional of the specific program.

In the event that a student complaint cannot be resolved through the program, the student may contact the office of the Dean of Students and/or the Associate Provost for Online Education.

Students are encouraged to follow the University's student problem resolution process prior to filing a complaint with a state agency.

Contact information for the agencies that handle complaints against postsecondary education institutions offering distance learning is available for current online students and prospective online students who are not New York state residents.

Agencies that handle complaints for New York state residents include the New York State Attorney General's Office and Office of College and University Evaluation.


Blackboard is Stony Brook University's learning management system (LMS), which allows instructors to supplement face-to-face classes, or launch online classes. Blackboard includes a variety of features that allow instructors to do anything from uploading course documents, to posting an announcement, to collecting and grading assignments. For students, Blackboard offers an easy way to contact instructors, download and access course documents, and check grades.
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