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How do you know if Online Learning is for you?

Some of the advantages of online classes include the flexibility and convenience of when and how you do your work. But taking classes online is a lot more challenging than it may seem.

Are you considering taking some or all of your courses online?  Then make sure you're ready to succeed. Online learning can sound so wonderful that some students start online courses without a clear picture of what is expected from them. Online courses require just as much, if not more, time and energy than traditional classroom courses. Also, online learning requires specific computer skills and learning strategies in order to succeed.

Do you have what it takes to be an online student?

1.  Persistence is perhaps the biggest key to success in online learning. Students who succeed in online learning are those who are willing to tolerate technical difficulties, seek help when needed, work daily on every class, and persist through challenges.  Some hints for doing well online are:

  • When you run into a challenge, keep trying and ask for help.
  • Set up a manageable study schedule for yourself and stick to it. Students who succeed are those who log in and make progress every day— even after the novelty of going to school online starts to wear off!

2.  Time Management and Motivation.  As a student of online learning, you will be directing your learning on a day-by-day basis. Most courses are not taught in real time and there are no set times for classes.  In a virtual classroom you do not necessarily "see" your teacher each day, so you must be able to manage your time well. This flexibility is one of the great benefits of online learning. However, it can also be a drawback for a student who procrastinates, is unable to stick to a routine study schedule, or is not motivated to independently complete assignments without daily reminders from a teacher.

Effective time-management skills don't just happen. They have to be learned. Some suggestions to help you are:

  • Review the syllabus for each of your courses and develop a long-term plan for completing your major assignments.
  • Make a daily "To Do" list and have fun checking things off the list as you complete them.

3.  Communication Skills are very important in online learning because students have to be willing to seek help when they need it. Teachers are very willing to help students, but they are unable to tell when students look confused.  We provide several ways for students and parents to communicate with teachers and staff, including email, discussion groups, chat room office hours, phone numbers, messaging, and even real time face to face office hours. Teachers and staff are glad to take questions from students and want to help you to succeed in your classes.

4.  Basic Computer Skills.  The ability to create new documents, use a word processing program, navigate the Internet, and upload files are some of the basic technical skills needed by online learners. All MPS online students must attend a new student orientation which teaches students how to use their learning management system and other online tools, but they typically don't teach the basics.  If you are unfamiliar with basic computer skills, you may want to find an online tutorial such as the ones available through Atomic Learning.  

5. Reading and writing are the main ways you'll communicate in an online class. Although some hard copies of textbooks are available at school, you should be relatively comfortable reading extensive documents in English on a computer screen and typing without frustration.  If you type less than 25-30 words per minute, you may want to practice typing before beginning online classes.  Some tests and quizzes have multiple choice questions, but many of your assignments will involve writing short or long answers.

6. A Good Study Environment.  Another critical component of academic success online is a good study environment.

  • Get some peace and quiet. You will need a quiet place to work without distractions like television or siblings.
  • Avoid games. Consider uninstalling any computer games to avoid temptation, or keep the games on a different computer in the house. 
  • Turn off your cell phone. Let friends and family members know the hours that you will be "at" school. 
  • Beware of surfing. It is easy to wander off through the Internet for much longer than planned.
  • Set up a comfortable work space. Lighting in the room should be at least as bright as the computer screen to avoid eye strain.  Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen so that you are comfortable. Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor. Wrists should not be bent while typing.


adapted from and the MN Department of Education