RegisterSign In

Are You Cut Out For Distance Education?

Jul 18, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

If you think it’s easy to be an online student, think again.  Online education can be just as demanding as traditional college.  But with distance education, you don’t have the set structure, the social network, or the huge library with the secluded study nooks.  You’ll have to rely on yourself, and you’d better be up to the task.  Here are six qualities of highly successful online students.

Six Qualities of Highly Successful Online Students


1. You’re Good At Time Management

Online learners have more freedom in terms of where and when they study than students at a traditional school.  But with that freedom comes added responsibility.  Nobody’s telling you when to study, so you’ll have to make that time on your own.

Some students create their own structure by scheduling a certain amount of time for studying every day. You must be disciplined enough to stick to your studies, even without a set class time.

2. You’re An Independent Learner 

Some students need comrades-in-arms: study partners, a group of friends in class, and a teacher looking over their shoulder. If you want to be a successful online student, you need to keep focused and motivated on your own.  There will be nobody pushing or inspiring you.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have no human contact in a distance education degree program.  Online students communicate with their teachers and other students via email, instant message, and bulletin board.  But you won’t get face-to-face contact, and you may miss the social aspect.

Successful online students are good at finding answers and motivation on their own, and looking in non-traditional places for support.  Websites like Meetup, Yahoo! Groups, or even Craigslist can hook you up with other distance learners in your area.

3. You Have Excellent Reading and Writing Skills

You’ll need to read materials and write papers in an online class, just as you would at traditional colleges.  But you’ll also communicate with your peers and teachers through writing.  There’s no question that distance education relies much more on written communication than traditional schools do. Even if you’re online math degrees or online engineering degrees your reading and online writing courses need to be decent if you want to do well. Writing is especially important.  While traditional teachers and professors meet you face to face, online teachers get to know you through the things you write in instant messages, email, and bulletin-board discussions.  If your grammar and spelling are bad, it could give them the wrong impression of you.

4. You Aren’t Afraid of Technology

You don’t have to be a technology expert to succeed in distance education.  But you do need to know the basics: online college courses, online communication, Internet research, and the fundamentals of Excel and PowerPoint.  If you don’t know these things, you must be willing to learn.

5. You’re Good at Setting Goals

As an online student, you won’t be surrounded by people with similar goals.  It can be easy to lose your motivation. 

Strong online students keep their goals firmly in mind.  Tape them up by your computer, on your fridge, on your bathroom mirror—anywhere you’ll see them every day.  It’s important to continually remind yourself why you’re taking this course, so you can stay excited and focused.

Setting goals is also important from a time-management standpoint. Successful online students plan out when they want certain assignments done as soon as they can.  Mark due-dates on your calendar.  Set intermediate goals as well: when you want your research done, when you’ll finish the rough draft of that paper, and so on.  This will keep you on track and prevent you from leaving everything until the last minute.

6. You Have Your Own Space

Traditional accredited online colleges usually have big, beautiful libraries full of peaceful little nooks where you can hide from the world.  In an online program, you might have access to the entire library online—but not the quiet place to study.

It can be difficult to study at home.  There are distractions everywhere, from television to dirty dishes to family members.  Successful online students learn to carve out their own peaceful place to study, whether it’s at home or at a local coffee shop or library. 

As much as you love your family, it’s also crucial to be able to get away when you’re studying.  You should either work around them by studying when your kids or spouse are at school or work, or make sure they know to leave you alone during study time.

Distance education can be a challenge, but it can also be extremely rewarding.  Online education doesn’t just teach you about your degree subject: it also teaches you to be self-motivated, independent, and resourceful.  These qualities will serve you well, no matter where your career takes you.




blog comments powered by Disqus