5 Characteristics of Successful Online Learners

In 2014, 70 percent of chief academic leaders agreed that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy, according to the Babson Survey Research Group’s “Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States.” If you are considering whether online learning should play a role in your own academic plan, it is helpful to understand what it takes to overcome challenges and succeed in an online program.

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Here are five characteristics that successful online learners share.

Online learners are motivated.

Their reasons can vary widely. Some online learners are inquisitive by nature and motivated strictly by their own curiosity. Others are driven by their professional aspirations or a deep-seated desire to hold advanced credentials. Regardless of why they want to learn, all successful online learners are motivated. They recognize that each class that they take represents another step along the path to their personal goal. That is why they make learning a priority and work diligently to digest the course material, complete the required assignments and get the most out of the online classes they take. Particularly motivated students might to decide to earn their degree faster with accelerated online associate degrees. If money is more of a factor than speed you might decide to start with these incredibly affordable online associate’s degrees.

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Online learners are effective communicators.

The interactions between a teacher and a student are different in online classes; teachers leading online classrooms never get the chance to see a look of confusion on a student’s face, so they do not know that additional explanation is necessary unless a student speaks up and requests it. Successful online learners ask questions when they do not understand or require clarification. In addition, they make every effort to communicate clearly so that they get their point across effectively. In addition, they engage with the teacher and other students in a manner that is respectful and courteous.

Online learners possess strong time-management skills.

One of the biggest lures of online learning is flexibility. Students are not expected to be in a classroom at a specific time. Instead, they simply log on at a time and place that is convenient for them. While this freedom is appealing and can make it possible for adults working full-time jobs and other nontraditional students to pursue a degree while still balancing their other responsibilities, the lack of a firm timetable can be a fatal flaw for people who do not know how to manage their time. Learning takes time, and successful online learners build time into their schedule to watch video lectures, complete the assigned reading and tackle the required assignments. If you’re a professional with great time-management skills you can even earn your online master’s degree in less than one year in many cases.

Online learners have basic technical skills.

While students do not need to be computer whizzes, technophobes will find online classes frustrating. Online learners will likely be asked to navigate the internet, use various software programs, utilize email, and create documents in word processing programs. Since many assignments will require answers in the form of sentences, paragraphs or essays, the ability to type will also come in handy. Most colleges and universities do offer orientation programs, but these typically cover details specific to the institution’s system; students are expected to already know how to accomplish basic technology tasks.

Online learners are persistent.

Challenges happen, but successful online learners do not quit. Whether it is technical problem, an especially challenging topic or a difficulty in balancing their schoolwork with their other responsibilities, they persist. They seek out help when it is necessary, create a study schedule and stick to it tenaciously, and keep going when times are tough. If they falter or get knocked down, they regroup, pick themselves up and try again because they are determined to succeed. Don’t forget that even if you’re enrolled in an accelerated bachelors degree online, you can always scale the pace down if something comes up.


Online learning can be a great way to develop real-world skills on your own timetable, but it is not for everyone. Students who lack the right combination of characteristics and skills are likely to stumble, but driven individuals who understand how to communicate, know how to manage their time, possess a basic grasp of today’s technology and display some determination can truly flourish.