Tips for Succeeding in Online School

Online education, or distance education, is an innovative and novel system that moves the traditional classroom online. The flexibility in time and space offered by distance education attracts people with especially complex schedules. Although some institutions remain doubtful, online courses can be very demanding - even more so than traditional courses. Without an instructor physically present, online students take responsibility for their own learning.

But of course, online learners are not left completely in the cyber-dust. An online support team is usually on-hand to help students with coursework and technical issues. Online students can also communicate with each other through forums and chat rooms.

Successful online students are extremely independent and responsible - after all, they virtually teach themselves. A mixture of traits, talents, and tips is what constructs a successful online student.


Online students are extremely responsible. Without a physical professor guiding them, online learners must take learning - and staying on task - into their own hands. Learning in a virtual classroom also requires students to be familiar with technology.

Online learners do not need others to motivate them. Though courses are self-paced, students must have the self-discipline to stay focused - even when instructors are not present to keep them on task, and when countless distractions are only a click away. They keep their own deadlines, set goals, and rarely procrastinate.

Online learners rely on themselves for answers and rarely need others to help them.
Though most online courses provide students with support, students have less readily available help than students in classrooms. Instructors are not as accessible as professors standing in front of a classroom.

Online students are familiar with technology. Courses are conducted through the computer, using databases, websites, email, webcams, online forums, and more. Students and instructors communicate through email and online forums. Students must therefore be able to navigate the web and computer programs with ease.


Learning in a virtual classroom while balancing other personal obligations requires students to wield excellent communication and time management skills.

Reading and writing
Like traditional courses, online courses require reading and writing assignments. Without an instructor present to help decipher last night's reading, online students rely on their own excellent reading comprehension skills. In addition, students communicate solely through the keyboard during discussions, requiring quick typing skills.

Time management
Online students are very organized. Many juggle careers and families - balancing various obligations while still making time for classes.


Consider the following pieces of advice to help make sure you have a successful experience with distance education.

Enroll in a reputable institution
Most importantly, look for accreditation - do not waste time, money, and effort on a worthless degree. Institutional and programmatic accrediting agencies hold institutions and programs to very high standards of education. Accredited institutions also offer federal financial aid, and can ease the credit transfer process should you decide to transfer to another educational institution. Search the U.S. Department of Education's Database of accredited institutions to find out if any online school you are considering is accredited.

Also, check student reviews of online schools and programs to learn about the quality of a school from those with first-hand experience.

Start small
Students new to distance education should enter the virtual classroom slowly to gain some experience before the full immersion. Do not plunge straight into a full online course. Instead, get used to studying online by taking an online elective course.

Look for a wide support system
Though online students do need to be independent and resourceful, they should also work on building a support system of instructors, mentors, advisors, tutors, technical staff, and other students to answer questions, quell concerns, and discuss assignments.

Designate a time and space for classes
Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you study best in noise or in silence, in public or in private? Designate a study area where and when you are most focused. Prioritize countless duties by setting aside a time and place for your education.

Participate in online forums
Online courses provide forums, chat rooms, and video conferences for students and instructors to ask questions, raise concerns, and conduct discussions. This is where online students can communicate with the virtual classroom and connect with instructors. Some instructors increase interaction by setting a specific time for all students to log in.

Article Resources:
Distance Education and Training Council
Norwich University | School of Graduate and Continuing Studies
University of Illinois | Illinois Online Network
Henley-Putnam University