Required Academic Competency to Succeed in Online Courses

Student Dialog - Academic Competency

Sage: Hi, Heather. I am thinking about taking an online course on World Technologies and Learning next semester.

Heather: Hey, study buddy! That's different...

Sage: The course is about examining the impact of learning technologies from email to online learning on world cultures from a socio-technical perspective. Wanna take it with me?

Heather: Sounds interesting, but I've never taken an online course before. What kind of skills are required?

Sage: Well. You need to be motivated and persistent to complete an online course successfully. For example, you may want to take an online course because you'd like a different sort of academic experience or to enhance your skills or your knowledge in certain subjects.

Heather: Would I have to attend online classes on a fixed schedule?

Sage: One of the best things about online course is its flexibility! You can access your course materials or respond to a post in a discussion forum anytime you want, based on your own schedule. Just make sure you manage your time well and submit your assignments before the deadlines since online courses take more time than you might imagine.

Heather: Great! Thanks for the advice, Sage. I'll have to think about it.


Cartoon of Sage and Heather talking. Read the dialog above the cartoon.

Cartoon of Sage and Heather talking. Read the dialog above the cartoon.

Cartoon of Sage and Heather talking. Read the dialog above the cartoon.

Cartoon of Sage and Heather talking. Read the dialog above the cartoon.

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Motivation and Persistence

Different people take online courses for different reasons. Some hope to enhance their skills or knowledge, some hope to gain more academic experiences, and some may wish to get a better job after completion of online courses. Motivations might include both internal and external factors. Some advantages of online learning may motivate you to succeed. One of the biggest conveniences of an online course is its accessibility and flexibility. You can read and review your course materials, class assignments, and discussion forums almost twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week depending on your own schedule and availability as long as the course management system is not under maintenance. Distance education requires self-discipline and persistence. Hence, setting your own goals and purposes for your learning will help you to keep motivated to learn and to hold yourself responsible for proceeding throughout the online course period.

Time Management

There is usually an incorrect assumption that taking online courses requires less time when compared with traditional face-to-face courses. However, you should expect to spend more time working on your assignments or online discussion forums for an online course than you would in a face-to-face course. An online learning environment depends heavily on text-based instruction and communication; as a result, it will take time for you to complete reading assignments and discussion form posts, to type your responses and reports, and to interact with your instructor and peers. Therefore, in order to succeed in online learning, you must devote a substantial amount of time and effort to studying and working on assignments. 

Typically, adult learners like to have a sense of self-directing and control over their learning while practicing their personal responsibility at the same time (East Bay AIDS Education Training Center, 1988; Moore & Kearsley, 2005). One benefit of online learning is the ability for you to set up your own studying schedule and pace. You should develop personal time management skills to help you manage your time appropriately. Doing so, you will be able to work on your assignments step by step and complete your tasks on time, instead of burying yourself in the tremendous amount of coursework and being unable to finish them before the deadlines. To keep track of your self-paced online learning, you should develop a personal studying schedule for competing your online course assignments on a regular basis and you should also evaluate your progress periodically.

Study Habits and Learning Styles

Study habits and learning styles are essential in online learning. Your learning style might have influence on successful online learning (Battalio, 2009). Therefore, knowing your learning style in advance will help you to understand your online learning and studying preferences. One approach is to divide learning styles into three categories: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Auditory learners talk out their problems while trying to solve them. Visual learners rely on drawing diagrams or pictures of concepts to make sense of important messages during their learning process. Kinesthetic learners attempt to understand concepts by doing things physically. It is recommended that you try different learning techniques or a combination of styles under different circumstances to enhance your online learning outcome.

To determine what type of learner you are, and develop your learning strategies accordingly, you may want to take the Learning Style Self-Assessment at