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Characteristics of Successful Online Students

Taking an online class has many advantages, including increased flexibility in completing homework assignments, the ability to communicate with your classmates and your instructor from the convenience of your own home or workplace, and enhanced access to written materials ranging from discipline-specific Internet resources to saved chats and instructors’ class announcements. However, an online class is not for everyone. For instance, if you need the discipline of meeting on campus several times a week and you enjoy the in-person interaction with other students and your instructor, you are more likely to succeed in a regular class. The following characteristics are typical of students who do well in online classes.

A Successful Online Learner…

— is self-motivated (does not need a lot of direction or motivation from a teacher);
— is self-disciplined (can budget time wisely and does not procrastinate often);
— enjoys the challenge of learning on her/his own (likes to read and learn);
— takes charge of her/his own learning (willing to ask questions and seek help when necessary);
— communicates well in writing;
— may need a flexible schedule, but understands that flexibility does NOT mean the course will be easy.

How Do You Learn?

A Self-test for Online and FastTrack Students.

See how well these courses fit your circumstances and personality. Choose one answer for each question, then read the explanations and scoring procedures.

1. My need to take this course now is:
a. High: I need to take it immediately for a degree.
b. Moderate: I could take it on campus later, or substitute another course.
c. Low: It’s a personal interest that could be postponed.

2. Feeling that I am a part of a class is:
a. Not particularly necessary to me.
b. Somewhat important to me.
c. Very important to me.

3. I would classify myself as someone who
a. Often gets things done ahead of time.
b. Needs reminding to get things done.
c. Put things off until the last minute.

4. Classroom discussions are:
a. Rarely helpful to me.
b. Sometimes helpful to me.
c. Almost always helpful to me.

5. When an instructor hands out directions for an assignment, I prefer:
a. Figuring out the instructions on my own.
b. Trying to follow the directions on my own, then asking for help as needed.
c. Having the instructions explained by the instructor.

6. Being in the same classroom with my instructor is:
a. Not important to me, as long as I have access to the instructor.
b. Somewhat important to me.
c. Very important to me.

7. Considering my professional and personal schedule, the amount of time I have to work on a course is:
a. 7-9 hours per week.
b. 4-6 hours per week.
c. 1-3 hours per week.

8. When I am asked to use DVD Players, computers, voice mail, or other technologies that may be new to me:
a. I look forward to learning new skills.
b. I feel apprehensive, but try anyway.
c. I put if off or try to avoid it.

9. As a reader:
a. I usually understand the text without help.
b. I sometimes need help to understand the text.
c. I almost always need help understanding a college text.

10. If I have to go to campus to take exams or attend review sessions:
a. I can get to campus almost any time.
b. I work during the day and can only get to the campus in the evenings or on weekends.


Add 3 points for each “a” that you select, 2 points for each “b,” and 1 point for each “c.” If you scored over 25 points total, online courses are a real possibility for you. If you scored between 15 and 25 points, they may work for you, but you may need to make some real adjustments to succeed. If you scored 14 or fewer points, these online courses are probably not a suitable option for you.


–Unless you have compelling reasons for completing a course, coursework is often neglected because of personal or work circumstances.

–Some students prefer to learn independently, while others find it too difficult.

–These courses give you greater freedom to schedule your work, but they also require more self-discipline.

–Some people learn best by interacting with other students. Online, FastTrack, and interactive TV courses provide considerable interaction.

–Online courses require you to work from written directions without face-to-face explanations by the instructor.

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