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How To Be A Successful Online Student



The Successful Online Student


Students should possess certain qualities to be successful in an online course. Not all students are good candidates for Internet-delivered courses; some students will tend to be more successful in traditional face-to-face courses.

This page lists the qualities of a successful online student. If you feel you are weak in the areas indicated below, you should speak with an advisor before registering for an online course. All courses, online or otherwise, take slightly different approaches to meeting the course objectives. The specific tools and techniques used to deliver instruction will vary some from course to course; you may wish to contact the instructor of a particular online course for more detailed information.

Online students should:

  1. Be self-motivated and self-disciplined.
    With the freedom and flexibility of the online environment comes responsibility. Due to the need to independently manage the flow of information and tasks in an online course, successful online students need to be self-starters and possess effective time-management skills.
  2. Be able to communicate effectively through reading and writing.
    In the virtual classroom, nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that students feel comfortable expressing themselves in writing. This may require remedial efforts on the part of the student. Meaningful and quality input into the online 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. Be willing to embrace active class participation, both as an individual and as a part of collaborative student groups.
  3. Accept critical thinking and decision making as part of the learning process.
    Critical thinking skills are an essential part of any learning process, but become even more essential in an online course. The learning process in an online course can involve discovery, critical thinking, synthesis of resources and evaluation of knowledge.
  4. Be willing and able to commit to at least 9 hours per week per 3-hour course.
    Online courses are not easier than the traditional educational process. Many students will say it requires much more time and commitment. Though the content of an online course is the same as its traditional counterpart, the delivery method demands that the online student learn technology skills and conduct most of their communication in written form.
  5. Meet the minimum technology requirements for online courses.
    Online courses require that you have access to the minimum technology (computer with access to the Internet, a Web browser and an email account) as well as basic proficiency with this technology. You may take a self-assessment here.
  6. Feel that high quality learning can take place without going to a traditional classroom.
    The learning outcomes for online courses are the same as their traditional counterparts. The successful online student will view online courses as a convenient way to receive their education - not an easier way. Online courses are not for every student. Be prepared to accept the instructor as facilitator to the class, as opposed to being a director of class activities. While your instructor is certainly managing the instructional process, they will be less the "sage on the stage" and more the "guide by the side."
  7. Be willing to "speak up" if problems arise.
    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 approach. If a student is experiencing difficulty (either with the technology or with the course content), he or she must communicate this immediately to the instructor.
  8. Take advantage of Support Services.
    As a Distance Learning student, you have access to many of the same services that on-campus students have: Registration, Financial Aid, Advising, Library, and the Bookstore are all available online for all students. Be sure to take advantage of the range of services that Butte College provides. These services can be accessed from the Butte College home page.
  9. Be willing to learn independently and in groups.
    The online learning process is best facilitated when students interact not only with the instructor, but also with each other. Your online instructor should be encouraging group interaction as a part of the learning process. In addition, your instructor may ask you to work in small groups, communicating with group members via the class communication tools to complete group projects.
  10. Preferred Learning Styles.
    Not all students learn best in the same way. Online courses depend to a great degree on a large amount of reading, writing and independent analysis. It is important that as an online student, if you do not learn best this way, be willing to both know your learning preferences and also stretch into new learning modes. Be willing to accept that due to this, Internet-based courses may be more difficult than their face-to-face counterparts.

Adapted in part from University of Illinois & the Illinois Online Network.


Butte College | 3536 Butte Campus Drive, Oroville CA 95965 | General Information 530.895.2511

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