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Read How to be a Successful Online Student

Page history last edited by abogado 15 years ago




How to Take an Online Class

Links to read

Work and Study Habits

Effecive Learning Styles

Necessary Skill Set

What makes a successful online student

(taken from Pasadena Community College)


The Online Learning Environment

In many ways, learning online is similar to learning in the classroom. Your instructor will provide quality readings, exercises, assignments and quizzes; as with regular classes, what you get out of it is related to how much you put into it. Expect to spend the same amount of time and energy on an online class; in fact, online classes can take more time and energy than regular classes.

However, it is also different in several distinct ways. Click on each to learn more:

Work and study habits

Online classes are convenient and flexible but students have to be disciplined enough to make time to study and participate. Successful online students:

  • Log in regularly to their classes, usually at least three times per week
  • Plan to ensure enough time to study and complete assignments
  • Take notes as they study
  • Commit 6 - 9 hours per week per three-credit class
  • Enjoy communicating in writing and reading the writing of others
  • Be able to work with others via email and chat to complete projects
  • "Speak up" to their instructors when problems arise

Online interactions are often an essential element of the learning experience. Be willing to share your ideas, carefully consider your responses to others, and be prepared to have your ideas challenged occasionally.

Effective learning styles

Online learning is best for those who learn by reading and writing; if you learn better by hearing lectures or making presentations, an on-campus class might be a better fit. Successful online students:

  • Are active learners who are willing to take responsibility for their own learning
  • Are visual learners able to learn easily from reading and writing. If you learn best by hearing the instructor, you may want to consider an on-campus class or ITV/telecourse distance education class.
Necessary skill set
The instructor can not see their students and won't know if you are confused, bored, or frustrated unless you are willing to talk to her/him about it. Successful online students:
  • Know how to use technology properly. This tutorial provides help with computer skills and information about Blackboard, the delivery system we use to present online courses here at PCC.


  • Read and write well. Students with weaknesses in these areas can get remedial help or consider classroom learning.


  • Are comfortable addressing problems at a distance. Distance education students need to be assertive in order to make their needs known.


  • Have good time management skills to plot and follow a schedule for finishing readings and assignments.


  • Have solid research skills, including how to effectively use the Internet.


  • Have the ability to work well cooperatively, even when your communication is restricted to email or online chat.


Two important qualities of a successful distance learner are flexibility and adaptability. Learning online is an adventure that will expose you to some entirely new - and not always comfortable - experiences. The ability to be flexible and remain open minded is critical to having a positive experience as you move into uncharted territory.

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(from University of Illinois)

What Makes a Successful Online Student?

student at computer

Like the facilitator, the online student possesses unique qualities. The online students of today consist primarily of working people who are trying to better their opportunities. This however is changing, as more and more young and older people become aware of the online model. The traditional school will never go away, but the virtual classroom is a significant player in today’s educational community. Corporations are using the online model to train technical professionals while private and public universities redefine the world as their markets. The market for students is expanding rapidly. In general, the online student should possess the following qualities:

  1. Be open minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process.
  2. Introverts as well as extroverts find that the online process requires them to utilize their experiences. This forum for communication eliminates the visual barriers that hinder some individuals in expressing themselves. In addition, the student is given time to reflect on the information before responding. The online environment should be open and friendly.

  3. Be able to communicate through writing.
  4. In the Virtual Classroom, nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that students feel comfortable in expressing themselves in writing. Many students have limited writing abilities, which should be addressed before or as part of the online experience. This may require remedial efforts on the part of the student.

  5. Be Self-motivated and self-disciplined.
  6. With the freedom and flexibility of the online environment comes responsibility. The online process takes a real commitment and discipline to keep up with the flow of the process.

  7. Be willing to "speak up" if problems arise.
  8. Many of the non-verbal communication mechanisms that instructors use in determining whether students are having problems (confusion, frustration, boredom, absence, etc.) are not possible in the online paradigm. If a student is experiencing difficulty on any level (either with the technology or with the course content), he or she must communicate this immediately. Otherwise the instructor will never know what is wrong.

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  9. Be willing and able to commit to 4 to 15 hours per week per course.
  10. Online is not easier than the traditional educational process. In fact, many students will say it requires much more time and commitment.

  11. Be able to meet the minimum requirements for the program.
  12. The requirements for online are no less than that of any other quality educational program. The successful student will view online as a convenient way to receive their education – not an easier way.

  13. Accept critical thinking and decision making as part of the learning process.
  14. The learning process requires the student to make decisions based on facts as well as experience. Assimilating information and executing the right decisions requires critical thought; case analysis does this very effectively.

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  15. Have access to a computer and a modem.
  16. The communication medium is a computer, phone line, and modem; the student must have access to the necessary equipment.

  17. Be able to think ideas through before responding.
  18. Meaningful and quality input into the virtual classroom is an essential part of the learning process. Time is given in the process to allow for the careful consideration of responses. The testing and challenging of ideas is encouraged; you will not always be right, just be prepared to accept a challenge.

  19. Feel that high quality learning can take place without going to a traditional classroom.

    If the student feels that a traditional classroom is a prerequisite to learning, they may be more comfortable in the traditional classroom. Online is not for everybody. A student that wants to be on a traditional campus attending a traditional classroom is probably not going to be happy online. While the level of social interaction can be very high in the virtual classroom given that many barriers come down in the online format, it is not the same as living in a dorm on a campus. This should be made known. An online student is expected to:

  • Participate in the virtual classroom 5-7 days a week
  • Be able to work with others in completing projects
  • Be able to use the technology properly
  • Be able to meet the minimum standards as set forth by the institution
  • Be able to complete assignments on time
  • Enjoy communicating in writing.

The online learning process is normally accelerated and requires commitment on the student’s part. Staying up with the class and completing all work on time is vital. Once a student gets behind, it is almost impossible to catch up. Basically, the student needs to want to be there, and needs to want the experience. The instructor may have to contact students personally to offer assistance and remind the student of the need to keep up.

Just as many excellent instructors may not be effective online facilitators, not all students possess the necessary qualities to perform well online. In your online course, you may want to include reference links to resources and tips for your students to use to help them be more successful online learners. Clearly outline your expectations and the necessary characteristics of a successful online student so your students can understand if the online environment will be a productive learning environment for them. Provide a questionnaire for prospective students to fill out to assess whether they are good candidates for online learning.


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