3. What does it take to succeed in an online learning environment?
First-timer? Here’s what you can expect — and what is expected of you — when taking an online course. If you have basic computer skills and an Internet connection, you can learn online. In fact, most institutions offer free online course demonstrations via their websites to give you a feel for the experience. They even give new online learners the chance to participate in an online orientation prior to enrollment. And if you get stuck, these schools provide tech support via telephone, online chat and e-mail.
The Skills, Habits, and Qualities of an Online Learner
Succeeding in the online learning environment requires a set of soft, technical, and modern information-oriented skills. Soft skills include your ability to write, communicate, present, manage time and projects, work in teams, and be organized. Technical skills are related to your adeptness with the use and maintenance of computer hardware and software, also referred to as computer literacy skills. Modern information-oriented skills refer to being information literate and web-savvy.
Most online programs today have courses that will inform you about the skills and habits you will need to navigate through Internet search engines and online library databases in order to find valid, trustworthy information. It is a good idea to take full advantage of any library services offered by the institution you are enrolled in as soon as you are considered a registered student with a valid student ID username and password. It will be beneficial for all of your coursework throughout your academic career, and you will learn Internet-based research skills that will serve you well both personally and professionally.
Get Help if Needed
Don’t worry if you happen to be lacking in any of the skill areas mentioned here. Take advantage of the introductory or demonstration online courses and tutorials that every online program offers its students; they’re helpful, easily accessible, typically free, and they go a long way in ensuring your overall success as an online learner.
A free tool, provided by the Louisiana Board of Regents, to help you determine if you are ready for online learning is "SORT" the Student Online Readiness Tool. Within this tool there are surveys to help you determine your technology experience, access to tools, study habits, lifestyle, goals and purposes, and your learning preferences. After each survey, depending on your level, it will provide resources for you to improve on those skills if necessary. While the interface is not flashy, the information provided is solid and can help give you a good idea of what you may need to do in preparation for beginning an online learning program.
Starting Off in the Right Direction
The first step toward success as an online learner requires that you clearly understand that this pathway entails hard work, and that you consistently maintain a high level of energy and commitment.
Learning online will be a challenging experience that requires a certain stick-to-it-iveness. Online learning is not in the least bit easier than learning in a traditional, on-campus setting. Overall, you’ll need to start by setting up a comfortable and effective learning environment, along with establishing a strong commitment toward meeting, in a timely fashion, all of the required academic tasks of a typical online program.
In order to become a successful online student, you’ll need all the study habits and skills associated with any kind of academic achievement, plus a keen sense and ability for working effectively without the benefit of face-to-face interactions with your peers and faculty members.
Honestly, the necessary skills are not that different than it takes to be successful in any endeavor. Here's a short video, originally from Ted2005 where Richard St. John shares the 8 secrets of success he garnered from 7 years of research and over 500 interviews with successful people.
Necessary skills for the successful online learner include: having strong online communication abilities, reading comprehension, typing, computer and information literacy, writing, online test taking, and, where appropriate, math. For more on these skills, check out the sections linked below.