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Qualities of a Successful Online Student

Updated on June 15, 2013


As life becomes busier and more expensive, students are searching for alternative ways to gain a higher education. Those universities offering distance learning opportunities are growing in popularity as a result of this trend. Whatever the students' particular motivation for enrolling in an online course, not all will succeed in their coursework.

Having been involved with distance learning for over a year now, I have observed the abilities of various students and have come to some conclusions as to those student qualities that make a good fit with the peculiarities of distance learning. Even if the students don't have a strong educational background, I have seen many compensate for this lack through a combination of personal strengths that lend well to learning online. Below you will find the qualities that I have observed in students who succeed in obtaining an education online.

Apple mouse
Apple mouse | Source


Those students who succeed in their distance learning goals are responsible. In today's society, it is all too easy to push responsibility off onto another person, but it is vital to a student's success that they are aware of classroom deadlines and requirements.

As with any other class, the online classroom has unique requirements for its assignments, along with strict deadlines. Those students who are attentive to these aspects of the online learning experience are much more likely to do well. Also, taking responsibility for mistakes is another quality that is important to success. Learning from errors and continuing with that new knowledge will aid in not only the learning process but also maturity.

Action Step: Responsibility

Keeping track of the many demands on our lives can often be difficult, even for those who aren't taking classes. Adding online classes to the many daily tasks can often seem overwhelming. It is possible, though, to be successful, but it takes some planning.

Action Step: If you are not already an organized person, then decide on a way to record deadlines and begin to use this method before your first class begins. For example, utilizing an online calendar can allow you to make appointments in advance and set up reminders to be sent to your personal email. This will be useful for online work as you can record the due dates for all assignments ahead of time so that you won't ever be late on an assignment.


Finally, motivated students are much more likely to do well in the online classroom, or any classroom, for that matter. Whatever the personal motivation might be for enrolling in a class, staying in the class requires a nature that is driven to succeed.

Not all classes are going to be interesting to every student, but there are students who are open to learning new topics and are determined to do well even in those classes that aren't their best subject. Because of this openness and determination, they will succeed. Adult learners especially will face many personal distractions in their lives, but those who take a great personal satisfaction in excelling will succeed no matter the problems they face.

Keyboard | Source

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Action Step: Motivation

Motivating yourself to continue in a task despite struggles can often be difficult. Some students will drop out of a class if they perceive it is too difficult or uninteresting. Maintaining your motivation throughout these times is crucial to success as an online student.

Action Step: While it may seem silly, write out your motivation for returning to school and post it prominently next to your computer. This will provide you with a daily reminder of why you are taking on such a monumental--and ultimately rewarding--task. Also, deciding on smaller rewards throughout the course of a class period can give you that extra push to succeed. For example, you could say that once you write the first draft of a paper that you will reward yourself with a movie.


This may seem painfully obvious, but a student enrolled online must be independent. In a traditional classroom setting, the professor will be there each week to motivate and guide the students through their assignments, but that is not necessarily the case in an online classroom.

Online students are provided with many different resources—whether written classroom materials provided by the school and instructors or multimedia that is found online to add an entertaining aspect to the experience—and it is the students' responsibility to read and study all of these resources. Also, the student should take the instructor's guidance as to their weaknesses, asking questions where necessary and researching on their own to fill that gap.

7 Tips for Successful Online Learners

Action Step: Independence

Being an independent learner can be difficult if you feel overwhelmed in a certain subject area. Beginning to learn on your own can be done over time, though, and in areas where you feel most comfortable.

Action Step: Find an area in your personal life where you would like to seek more information. For example, would you like to learn new cooking skills? Begin to seek out new resources, and get creative! There are many resources online, everything from videos to articles to forums. Get familiar with looking for resources so that you can easily do this once your classes begin.

Quick Tips for Becoming Successful

Deciding to go back to school as an adult can often be a scary step as with any big decision. While it is a positive turn in your life, it can also require changes in your lifestyle. Making those changes before your first day of class will help you become successful as a student. So where do you begin?

  • Do you have the necessary equipment at home for online learning? Online classes require a newer computer, necessary software, and internet access. If you do not already have these things, then begin the process of acquiring them.
  • Are you technically savvy? Schools will often say that you only need to know how to send an email in order to perform well in an online environment. This isn't necessarily true. Begin to familiarize yourself with software and social media in order to gain some confidence in computer work.
  • Who are your supporters? You will need people to motivate and support you as you take classes. If you don't have anyone for support at home, then think of joining an online forum or group for online students. You can encourage each other!

Cat and computer.
Cat and computer. | Source


Although distance learning is convenient and usually cheaper than traditional universities, this particular learning environment is not necessarily the best choice for all students. If you or someone you know is considering enrolling in an online class, then taking a personal inventory may be in order. Having the above personal qualities may make the difference between success and failure in distance learning.


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    • aud99 profile image

      Audrey 4 years ago

      Motivation is a big factor when you are on your own. If you are motivated, then the course will be much easier to complete.

    • Krista Schnee profile image

      Krista Schnee 4 years ago from Wichita, Kansas

      Thanks, WittyWeddings!

    • WittyWeddings profile image

      Hayley LaGarce 4 years ago from Kansas City, MO

      This is some really sound advice for online students!