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Top 5 Qualities of a Successful Online Student

I've been teaching online for more than 10 years now. I've taught at six different institutions and taught more than 40 different courses. Some courses have been as little as five weeks, some have been as long as twelce. I've taught everything from an Associates Degree Introduction to Psychology course, to a Doctoral level dissertation. So while I will never be so presumptuous as to say "I've seen it all", I do have some perspective on what it takes to succeed as an online student. It generally breaks down to five basic qualities.

1) Comfort with (and most importantly access to) the internet and other required technology: This may seem kind of self evident, but you'd be shocked how many people sign up for an online program that either don't have a computer, don't have regular access to the internet, or don't know how to use basic programs like MS Word. If you can't get onto the internet you can't access the class. If you can't access the class you can't do your lessons. Before you sign up for a online class and pay the tuition make sure you have the gear.

2) Understanding of netiquette: Netiquette is a portmanteau of internet and etiquette. It is basically the rules of civility in an online environment. Since the majority of interaction in an online class is via chat rooms, it is very important to understand these rules and understand how what you post might be interpreted. Bold font is seen as yelling, as are all capital letters. People can't hear your tone. There is no way to tell if you're "just joking". And whatever you post could be interpreted in a negative way. Breaking these rules can cause discomfort for others, and even removal from the class environment. If you want to be successful in an online class you have to learn these rules and abide by them.

3) Attention to written instructions and detail: Most of the communication in an online program is provided in text form on the computer screen. You will receive a syllabus, instructions and weekly assignments and discussions. Missing key parts of an assignment, turning in a paper on a topic other than what was assigned, or worse yet not turning in anything; can all result in some pretty major grade impacts. Most online courses are extremely manageable if you simply turn in all of the required assignments on time and according to the instructions. Be sure to login and always read instructions carefully and follow your course schedule.

4) Self-motivation: A function of attention to detail seems to be self-motivation. In an asynchronous environment the instructor cannot directly impact anyone who doesn't want to be impacted. There are a lot of factors that can cause one to become distracted. For instance, work can get busy, family life can get busy, the holidays can cause life to get busy. Always remember why you chose to return to school in the first place and always push yourself to keep going until you reach your goal (and even beyond that as well!).

5) Not being afraid to ask for help: Your instructors don't know if you're struggling unless you tell us. Your instructors are here to help and want to help you. All you have to do is ask. Don’t hesitate to email, skype or call your instructor.

To learn additional qualities of a successful online learner call us to speak with an admissions counselor at (866) 295-3104 or visit us at

About the Author

Jimmy Brown, Ph.D. is a senior level management consultant with eighteen years of experience leading efforts to develop and implement practical strategies for business performance improvement. Dr. Brown has held senior level consulting positions at leading firms such as Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Accenture and Hewlett-Packard.

He can be reached at or via Twitter @jimmybrownphd