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How to Be a Successful Online Learner

By Tamar Shulsinger
January 2, 2018

More than 5.8 million students nationwide are taking an online course. And while learning online takes motivation and determination, it can also be a powerful tool when finishing your bachelor’s degree. From being an active participant to managing your time effectively, here are five tips to help you succeed as an online learner.

Be an Active Participant

Take initiative of the learning experience by reading materials, reaching out to classmates and instructors, and conducting additional research as needed. Productive online learners focus on acquiring and utilizing feedback for future coursework. Students who take time to engage with their instructors and classmates also tend to have the most success in their classes.

Continue to Build Relationships

Successful learners see the importance in making connections with those around them. By actively participating in discussion board threads with their classmates, online learners network and build relationships with each other. Better yet, online learning transcends geographical barriers, so students can build and maintain networks across the globe.

Have an Open Mind

Some online learners feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions virtually than in the classroom. Online learning provides students with the time they need to actively reflect and organize their thoughts before answering a question or making a comment. Having an open mind helps students interact with the material—and fosters a more engaged and open community.

Ask Questions

The best online learners don’t hesitate to ask questions. They aren’t afraid to request clarification or guidance from other students and instructors. By doing this, they avoid confusion, become more engaged with the content, broaden their knowledge, and deepen relationships with their classmates. Posting to a group forum also allows online learners to ask questions other students may have. Professors encourage this type of interaction and value the community it builds.

Manage Your Time

Being an online learner requires self-discipline, so effective students strive to manage their time. Whether it’s squeezing in studying between other classes, work, or taking care of children, successful online learners plan ahead. They have a consistent time and workspace, where they can turn off distractions, get prepared, and stay focused on class discussions and homework. Successful online learners take advantage of their flexible schedule by planning time effectively.

By taking initiative of their online learning experience, students can enhance their education and successfully earn a bachelor’s degree.


Are you interested in earning your bachelor’s degree virtually? Explore Northeastern’s online bachelor’s degree completion programs.

About Tamar Shulsinger
Tamar Shulsinger is a digital content consultant for Northeastern's Professional Advancement Network.