Rock Valley College

Student Success in an Online Learning Environment

Maybe you’re taking your first online class and aren’t sure what to expect. Maybe your job or family responsibilities require you to take all online courses to work around a flexible schedule. There are many advantages to online courses; they allow you to learn whenever, wherever, and however works best for you. However, online learning can present unique challenges if you’re not prepared. Check out the items below to help you be successful in an online and at-home learning environment. Everything from tips to being successful, using campus resources from home, and how-to videos for using EAGLE and other RVC processes.

Virtual vs Online Learning

Some of your courses may be in an entirely online format, while others conduct a virtual classroom where your in-class activities are recreated online at specific times, dates, and online locations.

Asynchronous Courses (Online): 100% of instruction is online with no required times for lectures or meetings and all assignments are conducted through EAGLE or 3rd-party sites.

Synchronous Courses (Virtual): 100% of instruction is online with no in-person meetings and no in-person assignments/exams, but the course has required online meetings or activities at specific days and times.

Check out this document on Virtual vs Online Learning to understand more!

Bring Time Management to the Forefront: Time management is the most important skill you will need while taking an online class. You have to make sure you keep track of assignments, take time to learn the material and study, and not let a day go by without interacting with your class. Be aware that faculty will not be available to you 24/7. As you manage your time, build in time to wait on responses to emails or phone calls, especially if assignments are due on the weekends.

You Get Out What You Put In: Contrary to popular belief, online courses are typically not  “blow-off” classes. They usually have very similar academic rigor to their face-to-face counterparts. One of the easiest ways to ensure follow through is to remember that you are paying to take this online course, just as you would for a traditional, in-person class. You must “show up” if you’re going to get real value out of your class. Treat your online classes the same way you would a face-to-face class—or, better yet, a job—and you’ll be off to the right start.

Check Email and EAGLE Regularly: Check your email and EAGLE classroom regularly, especially at the beginning and end of the week.

Wait to Change Your Schedule: Some classes will have an asynchronous format, meaning that they will post materials and you can work on things at your own pace on your own time. Other instructors may host virtual classes in real time. Wait to hear from your instructors before changing your work schedule or taking on other responsibilities that might interfere with online class times.

Rethink Your Approach: As you learn how your instructors will conduct their online classroom, you may find that you need a new approach to studying. Brainstorm ideas for new ways of looking at information. Talk with your classmates to get new ideas. If you find yourself at a loss for how to study or learn in this new format, the Office of Student Success has several resources to help you. 

Don’t Assume Online Classes are Easy: It’s true that you can complete online coursework more at your leisure, but that doesn’t make the material any easier. If anything, online classes can be harder because you aren’t going to a lecture class, you’re learning on your own, and it’s entirely possible to just forget about the class if you don’t actively plan time for it. 

Learn Your Resources: Spend some time playing around with the EAGLE page for your online class. Click links, open tabs, download documents. This will make it easier when you need to find something on EAGLE, because you’ll have an understanding of how it’s organized. If you have questions, email your instructor.

Block Your Work Time: Have dedicated study blocks for each class. Working on the same class at the same times each week helps you build a routine that is easier to manage. Do not try to convince yourself to work. Instead, focus on a specific class on specific days and times because it is what you do MWF at 4PM, for example.

Set Up a Good Workspace: Set up good lighting and comfortable seating. Lighting in the room should be at least as bright as the computer screen to avoid eye strain. Try to eliminate distractions. Limit social media; don’t have it open in another tab. If you’re working on an assignment that doesn’t need Wi-Fi, then turn it off. Putting a barrier between yourself and a social media account can help. Try to find a quiet place to study. Let family members or housemates know not to distract you when you are “in class.”

Break Down Tasks: Look ahead at your assignments and try to schedule them in your calendar in small increments. Have a paper or project? Mark off the weeks until it’s due every week, then add in a goal each week for what you’d like to get done for that project. What do you have due every week for the class? Mark down what days you’ll get what done. Have a response and a vocab test every week? Maybe do the response over the weekend and make flashcards for next week’s vocab test every Wednesday.

Be Mentally Engaged: Take notes. Just because your online class isn’t in a lecture hall doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take notes. Writing down important information helps you learn, keeps you engaged in the material, and helps you study for tests. Create sections, sub-sections, highlight important facts or vocab. Are you really absorbing the information? At the end of every study session, or chapter, or section, ask yourself if you really understood what you were learning. If not, see if you can write down a few questions, pinpoint where you got confused, or re-read the material if that would help.

Ask Questions: Online students do not have the advantage of raising their hands to ask the professor a question in class. Instead, you will need to contact your professor by phone, email, or other means if you need help clarifying concepts, assignments, discussions, etc. The more you ask, the more you know!

Create Accountability: If you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible for completing assignments on time, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in as an accountability partner. You can also contact the Office of Student Success and Academic and Transfer Advising to schedule a check in with one of our staff.

View this library E-book for more information on being a successful online learner:  Learning to Learn Online

RVC and Community Resources

While taking online courses, you might not be able to make it to campus during open office hours, need to make an appointment from a distance, or don't have access to WiFi or a printer. Below is contact information and online resources for how you can continue to utilize RVC services while at home and other community resources to help you be successful.

Personal and Success Counseling

RVC Personal and Success Counseling provides mental health and academic support. You can email Andrea McCauley, Personal and Success Counselor, at or call her at 815-921-4105, or by messaging through Eagle/Canvas App (select Course: RVC Community Group and send to: Andrea McCauley). For life threatening or severe emergencies, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Student Services

While you may not be on campus, all services are operational and ready to assist students. Here is a list of all contact information for the office you may need:

Online Tutoring and Writing Center
Meet online with an RVC tutor, RVC Writing Center coach who specializes in your subject/course. 

If you have any questions or problems with this process, there are many options. For immediate assistance, Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, you can telephone Tutor Matching Service at (877) 919-8886 or email them at You can also contact the Rock Valley College Tutoring Center at (815) 921-2370 or

RVC Library

Don't exactly know what you need for your assignment or where to find it? Librarians are available online by CHAT through the library webpage  To chat, look for the green "Chat now" button. You may also email, or call (815) 921-4619 to leave a message for a librarian to return your call. For more information on library support for online learning, please visit

If you have additional questions about physical materials, current checkouts, Interlibrary Loans, or other general library questions, please email or call (815) 921-4615 to leave a message. 

Frequently Asked Questions:
I need to set up an appointment with someone but I can’t make it to campus, how can I do that? 

We have been using Zoom and an Online Chat service to help students. Contact the office to set up an appointment and they will reach out to you to let you know the next steps to connect virtually.

I don’t know who to contact or can I contact someone from student services instantly?

Click on the “Support Online” icon on the RVC website (bottom right of your screen). We are currently staffing the online support from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to assist student general questions or help get you connected to the correct college personnel. 

What if I need help after 6:00 p.m. or the office I need is not listed above?

Click on the icon you see after hours that says "Support Offline" Leave us a message with your question or concern and we will forward it to the correct department. 

How can I turn in my financial aid paper work?

You can e-mail the forms to or use the drop box after hours that is located outside of the Student Center. 

How can I add/drop/withdraw from a class?

The Records Office has recently added all their forms in an online format. Download the form you need and send a completed copy to the Records Office via email. Be sure to send it from your RVC student e-mail address to for help with the process.

I don't have access to a printer or scanner to submit assignment or send in documents, what can I do? 

First, check out the Community Resources for printing options. For scanning on iPhones, you can look here for further instructions on options. Android users can find similar information here on how to use Google Drive to scan using your phone.  

Meet the Rock Valley College team and find out what it takes to become a Golden Eagle!

Join us for interactive webinars where you will get the opportunity to learn about the programs and services at RVC. Each session will be followed by a Q&A session to address any questions you may have. Check out the Webinars page for more information and available sessions!

Microsoft Digital Literacy

Learn how to effectively use devices, software, and the internet to collaborate with others and discover, use, and create information.

Digital Learn

If you are new to computers, haven't used them for a while, are a little unsure and uncomfortable, or just need a bit of a refresher, we have the tools to help you tackle technology at your own pace and gain the confidence you need to succeed.

RVC Email/Linking Accounts

PDF with information on linking email and accessing from your mobile device.

VIDEO: How to Register for RVC Classes via Online Services

Click by click instructions showing you how to search and register for summer and fall RVC classes via Online Services.

VIDEO: How to Navigate Student Planning Tools

VIDEO: How to Access Student Email

This is where all official Rock Valley College mail gets sent to. It's important to check this and stay up to date with what is happening at the College.

VIDEO: Student Academic Profile via Online Services

This tutorial focuses on how you may run and review a program evaluation of the degree that you are working toward.

VIDEO: Waitlisting for a Rock Valley College Course

Rock Valley College offers a waitlist option for specified courses to give students an opportunity to obtain a seat in a filled course if a seat opens up for any reason.

VIDEO: Understanding your RVC Degree 

Rock Valley College offers various degree types. This video helps you to understand the different degree types, what type of degree you should be in, and how to understand and map courses required for each degree. 

VIDEO: Checking your Grades in Online Services 

Please check back for additional content, as these videos will update regularly!

Printing: FedEx near State and Mulford in Rockford has printing. Find more information here

Xfinity Wifi: Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free – including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser.

Charter Service Area: In an effort to ensure Americans have necessary access to online resources, qualifying households with students can get 60 days of FREE access with a Spectrum Internet account. Available for households with K-12 or college students, limited to new accounts who do not already have a Spectrum Internet subscription, installation fees will be waived. In addition, Spectrum WiFi hotspots will be open for public use. Call  1-844-579-3743  to enroll.