Getting Ready for Online

Macbook on DeskThis resource has been developed to introduce students to some tips and strategies to support a successful learning experience when taking an online or hybrid course. Take a moment to read and take part in the activities on this page to help you prepare for your online learning journey.

  1. Digital Skills And Technical Requirements
  2. How Can I Prepare For Success?
  3. What Can I Do To Make A Strong Start?
  4. How Do I Stay Motivated?
  5. Where can I find other resources to support my learning and wellbeing?

1: Digital Skills and Technical Requirements Check

As you begin your learning from a distance, the following digital skills are likely to help you be successful in your studies:

  • Knowing how to use the internet to assist you in your studies; for example, listening to a podcast or watching a video. You may also need to know how to upload digital files to a course website for assessment or to share with fellow students. The canvas student guide can help you get stared.
  • Knowing how to use the internet to complete research tasks.
  • Being able to use word processing packages to present your work.
  • Knowing how to write online messages to your instructor, teaching assistant or peer group or how to take part in live interactive sessions over the internet (like a live webinar, message board or forum). Your course may have example guidelines for communicating online.

What technical requirements must I meet to get started?

In order to access course content and participate remotely, you should first meet these minimum technical requirements for online learning. You can also read more on minimum requirements.

  • Personal Computer: You will need regular access to a computer – preferably a personal computer – with administrator privileges and you should be comfortable managing software and hardware. While much can be done with tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices they are not guaranteed to work in all areas of the course. For an optimal experience you must have a laptop or desktop computer (Windows 10 or higher or Mac OS X 10.14 or higher is recommended).
  • Internet connection: High speed broadband access (LAN, Cable or DSL) is highly recommended for an optimal learning experience. Note, that relying on a library or a café for internet access is not recommended.
  • A Web Browser is required for access to Quercus. In some instances, it may be necessary for some users to upgrade their web browser programs. A list of supported browsers can be found at
  • Speaker and Headphones: Many courses will have synchronous (live) online meetings using webinar software. It is preferable to use headphones with an attached microphone for these sessions.
  • Software:  Many courses require word processing software (download Office 365 ProPlus).

If you use any assistive/adaptive software or hardware it is important that you learn how it works in all aspects of your online learning environment (including content areas; synchronous learning areas like web conferencing tools; tests/online evaluations; discussion forums; and shared documents like wiki’s.

More can be found at

If you meet these minimum requirements, you have the tools in place to access the course and work with course material. The next step is preparing yourself to be a successful online student

2: How can I prepare to be successful?

Decide if the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions:

I am a self-motivated and self-disciplined individual.

I am able to work independently with little direction.

I have good time-management skills that allow me to schedule specific times throughout a week by myself to work on my online course.

I am self-motivated enough to succeed without the face-to-face interaction with my instructor and classmates.

□ I am ready to spend five plus hours each week on a course to review course lectures/videos, complete course assignments, participate in chats and
threaded discussions, etc.

I agree that online courses can be more challenging than face-to-face classes.

I have basic computer skills and can use word processing software, download software, install software, use a web browser, etc.

I have access to a computer that is connected to the Internet and have a backup plan if something happens to my computer.

I am comfortable in a “virtual environment” – email, sending attachments, threaded discussions, chat rooms, etc.

If you answered “yes” to most of these statements you are likely to be comfortable participating in an online course and we suggest you continue reading the items below. If you answered “no” to most of these statements then perhaps you can begin by viewing the Quercus for Students Site. There are also learner supports to help you be successful in any of your studies.

3: What can I do to make a strong start?

  • Remember that online learning is flexible but it does not mean it is less work! A popular myth is that an online course is easier than a face-to-face course. It is true you can work from almost anywhere, anytime you want, but an online course will take as much time and is as academically rigorous (or more rigorous) as a face-to-face course. If your course offers a webinar you will also be expected to keep regularly scheduled time each week to meet and participate with the class. 
  • Set up a quiet space to work from, and ensure it is free from distraction with good internet connection. 
    • Try to find a personal space (not a shared space like a common living area) and keep distractions (e.g. television, noise) to a minimum.  
    • It will help you focus on the course material. Log out of your social media accounts while you attend your online classes or do your school work.
  • Check into your course often (daily) and get involved with the orientation material.
      • Take time to explore the online learning environment – click around and get a feel for the interface and layout of the platform. Continue to check in frequently. 
      • Explore the different interfaces being used in your courses (e.g. Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, etc.) 
      • Investigate everything your Instructor has made available. 
      • Ensure you’ve turned on Quercus notifications. 
      • Check if your instructor is offering virtual office hours. 

4: Over the semester how do I stay motivated and track my progress?

  • Set up a study calendar with a regular schedule. Having a schedule will keep you on task and on time. Set mini deadlines for the week. For example, break down when you will: Watch lecture videos, complete readings, complete assignments and quizzes.
  • Develop relationships with your peers. Take part in online discussions and blogs. Developing a community will help you feel connected to the course and the material.
  • Seek help if and when you need it. Many help resources will be available for you in the course, including library services, academic support and technical support. If help resources are not enough reach out to your peers in the course as well as your TAs and your instructor.

5: Where can I find other resources to support my learning and wellbeing?

Student Life

  • Learning Strategist 1:1 appointments. Login to CLNx (then Appointments/Academic Success).
    • Or check with your Arts and Science college or professional faculty for appointments.
    • UTSC
    • UTM
  • Themed Discussions on learning skills: group chats facilitated by a Learning Strategist. Students’ questions drive the agenda. Login to CLNx (then Events and Workshops (St. George)/Academic Success).
  • Graduate Writing Groups are running virtually. Register at gwg@utoronto.caFull details can be found online.
  • For recent changes in Student Life services (e.g., Academic Success, Health and Wellness)
  • Visit Accessibility Services:
    St. George

For Assignments and Essays

Feeling Distress?



Educause How Students Develop Online Learning Skills.


Minimum requirements for Quercus

Browsers Supported for Quercus

Self Check adapted from Fairmont State University, Characteristics of a Successful Online Student

Dr John Butcher and Jay Rixon, Open University, Am I Ready to be a Distance Learner?

Creative Commons License

Getting Ready for Online by the University of Toronto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License