The students in your online classes may start out with energy and enthusiasm… but as the term progresses, they may appreciate some strategies that they can use to bolster their motivation and complete the term (and school year) on a successful note.

In their book E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success, Fourth Edition, Ryan Watkins and Michael Corry provide suggestions for taking control of your learning in an online course or program. We’ve summarized them below. Share this post with your students if they’re looking for a bit of encouragement and inspiration at this point in the term!

Six Habits of Successful Online Learners

Successful online learners:

  • Strive for excellence and put their best effort into their work. Do your best, but don’t stress out over being “perfect.” Perfection can’t be reached by any one of us!
  • Reach out for help. Granted, it’s not as easy to approach your instructors if you don’t meet on campus on a regular basis, so be sure you know how each of your courses’ instructors can be reached, whether by e-mail, online chat, phone, or other methods. Also, find out what other student services, such as online tutoring, academic advisement, or virtual library reference desks, are accessible to you.
  • Set challenging, but achievable, goals and place reasonable expectations on themselves. You entered this online learning experience with one or more goals in mind. Be sure to define your goals and write them down. These goals should stretch you, but they shouldn’t be so challenging that you feel discouraged every time you think of them.
  • Develop a network of people who cheer for their successes and come alongside them when the road gets harder. This network of supportive, motivating people can include family members, friends, or fellow students in your program. Having a group of people on your side can make all the difference when you don’t have the camaraderie  of classmates on a regular basis!
  • Get into the “study zone.” If you study at home, as many online students do, it’s much harder to avoid normal, everyday interruptions, so remove as much temptation as you can. Keep your study area free from smartphones, televisions, game consoles, magazines… anything that might serve as a distraction from your studies.
  • Head off problems at the pass. If you are having tech issues, can’t understand the directions for an assignment, or have a serious personal health that may cause you to miss due dates, let your instructor know about your challenges as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute, or you may miss your deadline (or other opportunities). (Watkins and Corry, 19)

Reference: Watkins, Ryan and Corry, Michael. 2014. E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

More Suggestions for Online Students’ Success

To read additional tips for success in online courses and programs, review the following posts:


What are your success tips for online students? Share them in the comments.