What Makes a Successful Online Learner?

Persistence is perhaps the biggest key to success in online learning. Students who succeed are those who are willing to tolerate technical problems, seek help when needed, work daily on every class, and persist through challenges.

When you run into a challenge, keep trying and ask for help.

Set up a manageable study schedule for yourself and stick to it. Students who succeed are those who log in and make progress every day. 

You must be able to manage your time well. Most courses are not taught in real time and do not have set meeting times.

This flexibility is one of the great benefits of online learning. It can also be a drawback for a student who procrastinates, is unable to stick to a routine study schedule, or is not able to complete assignments without daily reminders from their instructor.

Effective time-management skills don't just happen. They have to be learned. Follow the tips below to develop yours:

  • Review the syllabus for each of your courses. Develop a long-term plan for completing your major assignments.
  • Make a daily "to do" list.

It takes time to develop good habits, but you'll gain satisfaction from being well-organized and accomplishing your tasks. 

Communication skills are vital to online learning because students must seek help when they need it. Instructors are willing to help students, but they are unable to pick up on non-verbal cues, such as a look of confusion on a student's face. Follow these tips:

Use the tools provided to communicate with your instructors. Many online programs provide several ways for students to communicate with instructors. These might include e-mail, discussion groups, chat room office hours, cell phones, and text messaging. Instructors want to help you to succeed and will answer your questions. If your instructor has chat room or cell phone office hours, don't be shy about using those tools to communicate.

Use appropriate style and language. When communicating with instructors and other staff, you should write in full, grammatically correct sentences and with a respectful tone. Many students are used to a very informal style of writing in chat rooms, blogs, text messages, and so forth.

Because of the distance, it's tempting for some students to say things out of anger or frustration that they would never say to an instructor in person. Online instructors are professionals. Treat them with respect and courtesy.

Online learners need basic technical skills to succeed. These include the ability to create new documents, use a word processing program, navigate the Internet, and download software. Check for the program's hardware and software requirements and make sure your own computer meets those requirements.

Reading and writing are the main ways you'll communicate in an online class. Although some hard copies of textbooks might be required, you should be comfortable reading a lot of documents on a computer screen and able to type.

Some tests and quizzes have multiple choice questions, but many of your assignments will involve writing short or long answers.

If you type less than 25-30 words per minute, it may be worth completing a typing software program before beginning online classes.

To be successful, an online student has to want to succeed. Online learning requires independence, internal motivation, responsibility, and a certain level of maturity.

Have you given some thought to your own personal reasons for attending school?

Are you determined and self-motivated to succeed in school?

There are many worthwhile reasons to work hard in school. You might want a greater level of personal satisfaction with your future career. Or perhaps it's personal pride in your accomplishments. Or maybe you are seeking a wider range of opportunities available to you with higher education or a higher income.

Another critical component of academic success is a good study environment.

Get some peace and quiet. You will need a quiet place to work without distractions from things like television, family, or roommates. 

Avoid games. Consider uninstalling any computer games to avoid temptation.

Turn off your cell phone. Let friends and family members know the hours that you will be "at school."

Beware surfing the black hole of the Internet. It is easy to lose track of the time as you wander from site to site.

Consider ergonomics. Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen so that you are comfortable. Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor. Wrists should not be bent while typing.

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.