Attributes of a Successful Online Learner

The basis of each and every action we take is motive, that which pulls us towards the goal we have set. If there is no logical connection between the goal and the action, one is undoubtedly bound to fail.

The simple question which should come to mind when one is considering online learning should be: why enroll in an online course? If one can find the right answer, one will surely be energize for the entire period of study since one will always have a reason to push one when the storms hit.

The recent explosion of MOOCs and online learning platforms such as Coursera, edX, and P2PU, and many other free and open online course ware all over the Internet has led many students to flock to these online institutions without even considering whether they are worth the time.

The biggest reason being they are for free.

It it worth noting, though, that the failure rate in online education is higher than in a traditional classroom based set up. A report released in 2011 shows that online students are 10% more likely to fail as compared to their counterpart in a traditional face to face set up. (

The success of an online learner depends on many factors including technology, the instructors guiding the students, and, of course, the students themselves.

What can one do to became a A student in an online course? Here are some of the attributes you need to possess in order to succeed:

  1. You must be self-motivated. This will involve passion for what you are doing. Self-motivation will depend on the goals you set when enrolling for the course. Finding value in the course content, your peers and instructors will help you meet all the requirements of the course.
  2. You need to be an independent learner capable of “independently solving problems, gathering and pursuing necessary contacts and follow-up.”( Since most of the time you are learning on your own, you must know how to manage your work schedule and seek necessary support.
  3. Time management is the key. In online learning, having a good time management skill will prove to be a valuable asset for one’s success. You must learn to balance work, study and any other responsibilities making sure that the course in given priority and not simply “another extra thing to do”. In order to be successful, you must allocate enough time to the course. Sometimes, this is more than the time required by a traditional classroom set up.
  4. You must be a good communicator. Most, if not all, online courses involve the use of a common language to be able to communicate with your peers and instructors. Thus, as a student you must be able to express yourself courteously, with brevity and in a manner that everyone can easily understand. You must acknowledge that you are interacting with people from different regions who may use words differently. You must be careful when attempting to express emotions due to lack of non-verbal cues.
  5. You must be able to collaborate. Many online courses involve group discussions, peer assessments and other related activities put in place to foster a sense of community. It is therefore imperative that you are able to work with others, criticize wisely and accept just criticism. Be willing to learn from others who are more knowledgeable in the subject matter you are dealing with. Also, be ready to help others by giving sound feedback in discussion forums and assessments. This is an indication that you understand the material and are able to use the same for the advancement of your career.
  6. You must be able to set goals and fulfill them. Since you learn at your own pace and decide which assignments to do and at what time, you need to be able to set goals and learn to commit to them. Goal-setting is vital if you want to be able to beat deadlines and perform well in assignments. Also, goal-setting acts as a motivation, each goal met can give a boost which can help in accomplishing the next goal.
  7. You need to be your own advocate. Your instructor may not know that you have a problem. So, you must have the mind to alert him/her. For instance, in peer assessment, if a peer gives you a grade that you think does not reflect the information presented in your essay, you shouldn’t be so shy about contacting your instructor and telling him/her about it. You must know enough to distinguish between your rights and your privileges.
  8. Lastly, and for obvious reasons, be computer literate and have sufficient access to technology. This includes a working knowledge of word processing, e-mail, Internet research, file management, software management, and of the learning platform being used. Access to a computer and a reliable Internet connection are obviously a must.

Have a great online education, dear reader.


2 thoughts on “Attributes of a Successful Online Learner

  1. Pingback: Welcome to Term 5! | UoPeople Students' Blog

  2. Pingback: Welcome to a new UoPeople year! 2013-2014 | UoPeople Students' Blog

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