Ready for eLearning?

Traits of Successful Online Students

Online learning is different in many respects from the traditional face-to-face learning we’re all used to and the primary difference lies in the way in which information is communicated and the methods of interaction between instructors and students and students with peers.  For many students, these differences lead to positive results; many participants relate that they learn more online and experience better retention.  However, some students – even “good” students” – seem to struggle in an online class.

If you are a student considering taking an online class, it is important to consider your learning habits, as well as your lifestyle, in order to assess whether or not online learning is a good fit for you as an individual.  The following traits are those that are common to most successful students, but are critical to students in online classes:

  • Comfortable with computers
  • Able to use the course management system (Blackboard), an internet browser (Firefox or Chrome), a word processor, and the SUNY email system (Hawkmail)
  • Self-directed
  • Motivated
  • Strong reading and writing skills
  • Inquisitive
  • Disciplined
  • Independent
  • Able to stay on task

So, is online learning right for you? Review the following questions as you decide:

Online Learning FAQs

Do you have the discipline (and time!) to study regularly?

In an online class, just as in a traditional class, you’ll need to set aside adequate time for study.  However, unlike face-to-face classes – which often meet only once or twice a week – some online courses require that you log in to the online classroom frequently throughout the week in order to complete assignments or communicate with classmates and instructors.  Also, while online classes can help make your schedule more flexible, you should plan on spending *at least* as much time working on assignments and studying, as you would in a traditional course; further, in many instances you’ll be setting your own pace, so careful planning of assignments and the creation of achievable goals are critical elements in being a successful online student.

Will you ask questions when you need to?

If you typically don’t hesitate to seek help when you need it, you’ll do fine in an online course.  Letting your instructor and classmates know when you need help is essential in an online environment; in a virtual environment others will not be able to see looks of doubt or confusion to tell when things aren’t going well.  It is up to you to communicate these feelings to others in the class who can help you get back on track.

Does written communication come easily for you?

In most cases writing is the primary method of communication in online classes, so participants in an online class should be at ease with writing in order to express thoughts, share ideas, and ask questions.

Do you have strong reading skills?

Reading can play a large part in any class, but strong reading skills are especially critical in an online course.  The ability to read and comprehend subject matter without it being a chore is essential to your success in an online class.

Are your technical skills adequate?

Along with having access to a computer and not being overwhelmed by typing, online learners should be comfortable with internet browsing and searching; email; sending and reading attachments that are posted in the Blackboard course sites; word processing; and sometimes downloading and installing software plug-ins (a normally simple, but sometimes intimidating task).

Are you self-directed and motivated?

Most of online learning happens on your schedule. You’ll need to be self-directed and motivated to complete activities on schedule and initiate the communication required to be successful. You’ll be responsible for creating the structure to finish each course.

If you’re satisfied with your answers to these questions, you’re likely to do well in an online learning course!

Adapted from