Essential Skills for Online Students

E-learning short courses
(Photo credit: London College of Fashion short courses)

I am writing up a page for our students here at Humboldt State University on the study skills needed to be a successful online student. The same skills needed for success in face-to-face courses are needed in online courses, but my research shows that the following are particularly important for online learners:

  • Motivation and Self-Discipline – There is often no set schedule – you must make real commitment to your assignments and deadlines. Remind yourself often why you are in school and what you want to accomplish.
  • Time Management – Use the calendar in gmail or any task list that will notify you like “Remember the Milk.” Print out the course schedule and enter the dates into an online calendar.
  • Effective and Appropriate Communication – Even though you are online, your classes are an academic environment; communicate accordingly.
  • Engagement – Be an active learner. You have to take responsibility for your education.  Ask questions. Ask questions in the forums where other students will benefit from the answers, and don’t be afraid to answer questions either.
  • Collaboration – Forming online study groups and participating in discussions online can make all the difference in an online course. The connections you make are as important as what you learn. 

I am basing a lot of this on my previous research working in community colleges with our DE 101 class – an introduction to online learning. I am also very interested in the Connectivist perspective here: we need to include more in our student prep courses on networking which is important for students to connect to content, their peers and instructors. Being able to build smart networks is at least as important as the subject matter because the networks will allow students to continue their learning long after the class is over.

I am unsatisfied with our “tech skills” list too. Lots of emphasis on software and not enough on what you would use it for. We need to teach students how to be effective in MOOCs, mlearning and other platforms and educational environments – not just the online learning model of the 90s.

What would you add to this list? What habits make your students successful? Add them to the comments or email me and I will include them in the list. 

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