Successful Students

Traits of a Successful Online Learning Student

Are You Ready to Learn Online?

The following suggestions have been provided by students who have been successful in their online classes. You may find these helpful if you are thinking about taking courses online.

Your Learning Style - A Good Fit?

Motivation: Can you keep working on a task without someone there to keep you focused?
Online learning brings freedom and flexibility with it, but you need to be self-directed, self-motivated, and self-disciplined to keep up with your course commitments.


Do you communicate well in writing? Are you the type of person who will communicate regularly with a teacher in an online forum through instant messaging, email, and by phone?
Online learning relies on emails, phone contact, and instant messaging to communicate. You need to feel comfortable expressing yourself in writing to be able to contribute to your course, network with other students, and to communicate with your instructors.
Communication with your teachers on a daily basis is an important piece of the Online Program. You need to be the kind of person who is comfortable and conscientious about communicating with your teacher frequently.

Time Commitment

Are you willing and able to invest as many hours per week to your online courses as you would to courses that you normally attend in person? Students who have tried online learning say it takes more time and commitment to study online than in the traditional way. Online learning may be more convenient, but it is not easier. You have to quickly get into the habit of logging-on to your courses EVERY day.


Are you willing to think about the content presented in your course then share your ideas, even though they could be challenged? An open, friendly 'climate' is important in online learning. You get some time to reflect critically on information covered in your course and on your life/work experiences before you respond in online activities. Ideas may be challenged just as in a face-to-face classroom discussion - it is encouraged as part of the learning process.

Organization: Can you create a space where you can study?

Use your study space on a regular basis so you and your family know that this is the place where you are to study - not eat, sleep or chat. If possible, your study space should be where you can shut the door to work in peace. If you share your study space with a busy living room, dining room, or bedroom, other needs or distractions may take priority over your studying and greatly hinder your progress.

Self-Dedication and Support: Do you take your education seriously?

Develop a support system of friends and family before you start your online experience. This support system will help you through those times when you will need to sit at your computer for hours at a time in the evenings and on weekends. When you are wanting to relax or hang with friends, you may instead need to be at your computer to work on assignments in order to meet your progress and completion dates. It will help you mentally to surround yourself with people who understand, support, and respect what you are doing.

Willingness to Seek Help: Do you ask for help when you need it?

It is hard, and sometimes impossible, for online teachers to 'pick up' when students are having problems in the virtual classroom. If you are having difficulties, whether with technology or understanding the course, you need to ask for help as soon as possible.

The Technical Side

Internet Access

Do you have access to a computer and the Internet daily? If you want to access a course from your home or somewhere else you'll need to make sure you have the right setup. 'Somewhere else' could be the public library, friends who will allow you to use their systems sometimes, or there may be an Internet cafe near you. 

Comfort with Technology:

Do you have basic computer skills? There are some basic computer skills you need to succeed in an online course. This includes word processing, using an Internet browser; instant messaging, and using email. Individual courses and programs may require additional computer skills.

Some modified excerpts are taken from, The North Coast Institute; and Parkersburg, West Virginia University, "How to be a Successful Online Learner."