The Essential Hub for Distance Learners

Essential Skills of Online Learners

by edgab

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Ever wondered what it takes to succeed as a student in distance education?  Whether you are thinking about distance learning or enrolled in a distance education program, reviewing these skills will help achieve your educational goals.

Time Management

Online education offers flexibility for students to choose when and where they study and complete assignments.  Without structured class times and dates, it is easy to procrastinate and wait until the last minute to complete coursework.  Other commitments, such as work, caring for loved ones, vacations, and friends can also cause students to put school on the back burner.

Effectively managing your time implies setting aside specific times each week for class work.  If you struggle with time management, make specific school appointments in your planner.  Don’t have a planner?  Buy one or use your phone or computer calendar, and start planning today!  Developing the skill of time management takes consistent practice for weeks and weeks.  Start addressing time management now to master this skill sooner rather than later.

The average distance learner should spend 10-15 hours per week on courses.  Block out 1-3 hour blocks of time dedicated to school at least four times a week.  Find someone who will hold you accountable and share these appointments with her or him.  Make certain they will follow up to ensure you are attending these “appointments”.


The convenience of distance learning is indeed a great feature of online education.  Students can attend class on the couch, take tests at 1:00am, or write lecture notes while traveling to Brazil.  A potential pitfall is the convenience of your computer.  With social media, online shopping, email, and instant chat, it is extremely easy to get distracted.

Successful distance learners have the self-discipline to focus on their studies.  Close out windows unrelated to your school tasks.  Turn off the television if you find yourself watching more of what’s on TV than what is taking place in your professor’s videoconference.  Imagine your schoolwork at the center of a bulls eye.  Zero in on this area, minimizing the distractions surrounding it.  Be aware of when you become distracted and refocus your efforts on school.


Accomplished students keep track of deadlines, take notes, and create reminders for themselves.  They know what is due this week and this month.  Distance education is not an easy degree to obtain. Because your progress is based on whether or not you complete assignments, handing in something late or not completing an assignment can easily move your grade from an A to a C.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers ask questions and think outside the box when presented with new information.  Distance learners are active participants in what and how knowledge is conveyed and often times, the sole source of knowledge.  Thinking critically promotes a comprehensive understanding of the content.  It increases preparedness for writing essays and completing assignments.

When presented with information, pose questions about it to think outside the box.  Consider open-ended questions that begin with how, why, and what.  Write down, reflect on, or post these questions to the edgab forum.  Practicing the art of critical thinking expands knowledge while encouraging expertise.  It also helps anchor learning so that new information is easily accessible.  Not only will this skill help to increase your learning, but it will be an asset to employers when seeking a new job or promotion.


Effective keyboarding skills increase productivity for students.  If you find yourself inexperienced in typing, find a class to take at a local community center.  Doing so will help you learn ways to navigate the computer and advance your typing skills through repetition.


Completing classes at a distance is quite different than attending school on campus.  Professors may not necessarily be able to see who is and who isn’t coming to class.  Holding yourself accountable for completing assignments, meeting deadlines, and advancing your knowledge is vital to becoming an expert in your field as well as to receiving a degree worth your time and money.  Enrolling in school is similar to making a commitment.  This commitment is primarily to yourself; you are committing to put energy and effort to advance your knowledge and allow yourself a better life.  Hold yourself accountable for taking the necessary steps to achieve your academic goal.


To risk is to take a chance; it is to contemplate the unknown or even the known.  Taking risks in distance education implies moving outside your comfort zone to build skills and a solid reputation in your field.  It often requires completing a physical, social, emotional, or cognitive action without knowing the exact outcome.

Many students hesitate to take academic risks out of worry or fear.   Worrying about what others think or fearing social situations makes students hesitate to ask questions, network, and demonstrate their thinking skills.  Take risks in your courses by emailing teachers with questions and networking with your classmates as well as folks outside the classroom.  Respond to your peers’ comments with thoughtful inquiry and intentional statements.  Taking academic risks can help expand your knowledge, demonstrate your assets, and build an esteemed reputation in your field.

Make it a learning day!

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