Top 10 Skills to be a Successful Online Student

Smiling student at laptop

If you're considering online learning, you are not alone. More than 6.3 million students in the US took at least one online course in Fall of 2016. That's a 7.3 percent increase over Fall 2015, and experts expect the numbers to continue to rise. 

Online courses are no longer for traditional college students either. High school, graduate, and professional certification programs are offering more online options. Recent studies suggest the global learning management system market will be worth more than 19 billion dollars by 2022

Although online learning is popular, students sometimes struggle to adapt to the system. Are you concerned about the challenges of being an online student? There are several tips that can help ease your worries and set you up for success. Read on for the top 10 skills and traits recommended for a positive online learning experience.

1. Motivation - An Online Student Should Be Goal Oriented

This skill is more of a personal characteristic, but it's an important one. Whether your course is self-paced or follows a strict schedule, there will be goals you'll need to meet. And without consistent instruction, you'll need to push yourself to achieve your educational goals.

Online students must be their own best cheerleaders. You'll need to remain focused on your goals. Without in-person guidance, you'll have to find your motivation and drive from within.

2. Investment - Online Education Requires Real Interest in Learning

Like being goal-oriented, having strong and genuine interest in learning is vital. You should care about the course subject, but also be ready to invest in other types of learning. You may need to learn new technologies, trouble-shooting skills, and communication techniques. 

The next two skills relate back to this type of willingness to learn. You'll need to master your computer and communication skills before you can master the course subject.

3. Computer Skills - Online Learners Should be Proficient with Technology

Even if you're taking just one online course, you'll need to master technology. Can you imagine not knowing how to download a necessary tool or log in to your learning portal? Set yourself up for success by learning more about your computer and any required technology before your course begins. 

If you find yourself struggling, ask a technologically talented friend or family member for help. You can also reach out to your instructor, mentor or an online support staff. Address technology issues as soon as they arise.

4. Online Presence - Digital Students Should Be Comfortable Sharing and Existing Online

It's rare that online classmates, students, and instructors ever meet in person. All introductions and ongoing conversations happen online. You'll need to feel comfortable sharing and connecting with others this way. 

As an online student, you may need to create a profile or answer questions about yourself at the start of the course. You may even do group work that requires you to get to know your classmates better. Be open, friendly, and polite like you would be in a traditional classroom environment.

5. Communication - Proficient Writing and Reading Skills are Key

You'll be communicating with your instructor or mentor - and with other students - in a non-traditional setting. You won't be able to depend on in-person conversations. All communication will happen via reading and writing. 

Your reading skills will help you follow instructions and retain important information. Strong writing skills will help you clearly communicate ideas and questions. Get used to employing close reading skills and proofreading your work.

6. Adaptability - Online Learning Requires Constant Adaptation

Success in online education often hinges on how well students can adapt. First, there is adapting to learning online versus in a traditional classroom setting. But an online student can expect to adapt to changes throughout their experience. 

You may face changes in technology midway through your course. Be prepared to adapt so that these changes don't throw you off track.

7. Persistence - When the Going Gets Tough, Online Learners Get Going

Online learning offers several advantages over traditional learning environments. After all, we know how fast the online education market is growing. Still, online students face many challenges as traditional students do. 

You may feel overwhelmed as you adapt to an online learning environment and new learning tools. Or your course may be more difficult than you expected. When challenges arise, you should feel prepared to push through and conquer them.

8. Problem Solving - An Online Student Must Be Cool, Calm, and Collected

Related to persistence and adaptability, being a strong problem solver is important. When challenges arise, you may need to act quickly without help from others. If you can remain calm and think clearly in these situations, you'll do great. 

To avoid common issues with online learning, try plan ahead for problems. If your laptop crashes or your Wi-Fi is out, can you go to the local library or coffee shop? Are you prepared to use flash drives or cloud storage systems to help avoid losing your work?

9. Organization - Schedules and Task Lists are Gold to Online Learners

Schedule flexibility is an advantage of online learning, but it can sometimes be a drawback. With so much freedom, it can be easy to slack off or forget assignments. This is why organization is so important for an online student. 

Use a planner or calendar - whether it's pen and paper or an app on your phone. Set reminders for online classes and assignment deadlines. Review your schedule and to-do list often and record new or changed items immediately.

10. Open Mindedness - Successful Online Learners Embrace Change and Newness

Chances are, you're an open-minded person interested in new and innovative ideas. If you weren't, you wouldn't be considering an online learning opportunity. This open-mindedness will serve you well in your online education. 

As you go through your course, remain open to new ideas and possible changes. Remember, online learning is still a new and evolving space. Prepare as much as you can but embrace the unexpected.

Are You Ready for the Online Learning Adventure?

There are traits and skills that may make you an especially successful online student. But, digital learning can be right for any person who is genuinely interested and motivated. We can help you prepare for successful online education. 

Browse our blog for valuable tips. We have advice for people working full-time while attending school and for those considering a career change. We're proud to support all types of online learning and students.

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