I teach in an online RN-BSN program -- at a school that follows the traditional school-year calendar as it is part of a traditional "brick and mortar" university. Students can take 1 or 2 classes per semester and do the program over a period of 3 or 4 years or they can go full time and take 3 or 4 courses per semester and finish more quickly. I've had friends attend other online programs.
From a professor's perspective, here are a few tips off the top of my head:
1. Get any technical problems resolved ASAP so that they don't become a distraction throughout the whole program. Invest in a new computer upgrade if necessary and take the time to learn the software. If you don't, it will make the whole process much more frustrating than it needs to be.
2. Find out early in each course how to best communicate with the instructor -- and then use that method to communicate as appropriate. Most instructors are not monsters, but you need to communicate with them in a way that works well for them. You may have 2 or 3 different courses and professors at one time to deal with, but they may be dealing with over 100 students simultaneously and need to be able to keep all the e-mails, turned-in assignments, questions, etc. organized. I will teach 1 course this fall and expect to have approximately 60 students. In order for me to be able to manage all those computer files, e-mail messages, etc., I need for each student to follow the directions and submit their comments, questions, and assignments to the correct address.
3. Follow the directions! I never did understand why 10% of my students last year did not follow some of the simple, straightforward directions that they were given -- repeatedly. The other 90% had no trouble, but 10% continually made the same errors over and over again in spite of being told repeatedly that they needed to change. (In case you're wondering, most of those students failed the course in the end.) Without face-to-face interaction, most online courses list very definite requirements for assignments and directions for getting them submitted. Follow them to the letter. If it says, "Submit a 3 page paper by Wednesday..." then submit a 3-page paper by Wednesday.
4. If there is going to be some problem with meeting a deadline or fulfilling a requirement, communicate with the instructor ahead of time (and in the appropriate manner.) Don't wait until after the fact and then give an excuse as to why you failed to do as you were instructed. Treat your school committments the same way you treat your work. You wouldn't fail to show up for work and then come back a week later and say, "Oh, I was sick last week." You would call in sick before your scheduled shift. You should do the same thing with your school committments. Teachers are much more likely to negotiate an alternative due date etc. if you let them know in advance and seem interested in finding some alternative way of fulfilling the requirements. Don't just disappear from class and then expect to be given much leniency when you "show up online" a week or two later making excuses.
5. Make a back-up plan in case your computer breaks, power goes out, etc. It can be as simple as contacting a friend and saying, "Could you please send an e-mail to the following address and explaining to my teacher that ...?" Again, you would not simply skip work: you would make an effort to let them know. Show the same courtesy and respect to your faculty and your classmates.
6. Work on your writing skills. If you can't communicate well in writing, you will struggle in many (most?) online courses. Discussions are not verbal, they are written. It's hard to prevent cheating on an online test, so many courses invovle writing papers. Get a copy of the required style manual and use it regularly.
If you do the things I said above, online education can run smoothly and you can learn what you need to learn. Plan to devote the same amount of time and effort to an online course that you would a similar brick and mortar one. Use the above suggestions to "manage" the online aspect of it.
Good luck to you! (Good luck to us all.)