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Successful Online Learner Characteristics

Will You Be a Successful Online Learner?

Online students and faculty who teach online agree that online learning is rigorous and challenging to students in ways different from what students face in the traditional classroom. To find out if online learning is for you, consider the following "characteristics of successful online students" in relation to your approach to learning and your characteristics. 

Able to manage time, well-organized, and self-disciplined

While online courses are convenient and flexible because they typically do not have scheduled class meetings, you must devote as much time for studying, reading, working on assignments, and engaging with peers and the instructor as they would for classroom courses. Successful online students

  • consciously schedule time to complete the requirements of online course work;
  • are well-organized and can effectively budget time to complete required course learning activities; and
  • know how to "make time" for online course work in their busy lives.

Angela D Jones, Nursing Graduate"The most significant challenge was learning how to be a fulltime employee and fulltime doctoral student while balancing family responsibilities as well. Organization is essential because life does not stop when you begin this adventure." Angela D. Jones, 2013 Nursing graduate.

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Motivated, proactive, and committed to their learning

Learning, participation, and engagement in online courses mostly happens asynchronously, which means you, your peers, and your instructor are working on course activities at different times. Successful online students 

  • take responsibility for their work, meeting due dates for required weekly work while preparing for long term assignments, independent research, and collaborative projects;
  • ask questions of the instructor and their peers and inform their instructor of concerns;
  • participate in online discussions and check their course site periodically for updates, instructor feedback, and peer interaction; and 
  • are engaged, motivated, and self-disciplined during the course.

Can communicate well in writing

Much of the work you do in an online course will require communicating your learning through writing. Successful online students

  • are comfortable communicating in various forms of writing;
  • express themselves in carefully thought-out worded responses;
  • are able to stay focused on the topic and question in their responses; and
  • seek assistance proactively from tutors and the University's Online Writing Center if need be.

Have a place to study

Having a quiet place to study is very important to your success. Successful online students

  • have a place with enough space for them to work on course activities that is a familiar and comfortable place to retreat to complete online work.

Comfortable Using Technologies

As an online student some technologies will be familiar to you (like watching internet videos), while other technologies may not (like the learning management system, virtual web conferences, or simulations). Successful online students

  • are comfortable using various kinds of technologies;
  • know how to navigate webpages, open new browser windows, download and upload files and images, use several search engines to locate information, and can install software;
  • know how to find answers to troubleshooting problems by using HELP features, finding contact information, and using searches to find answers to common computer problems; and 
  • know how to determine the problem and who to contact to get assistance or get it fixed.

Competent in the University's learning management system

Duquesne University uses BlackboardTM to deliver its online courses. Duquesne provides online students a self-guided tutorial to learn the many features and functions of Blackboard. All course sites contain links to helpful technical support resources. Successful online students

  • complete the self-paced online Orientation to Blackboard, before classes begin;
  • become acquainted with the help documents and tutorials available; and
  • become well-versed in the learning tools available to them in Blackboard and other program specific applications.

Contact your specific program of interest for further requirements, tuition and fees, and/or questions related to online learner expectations in that program.

Ruth Irwin Nursing GraduateWhat advice would you give to people considering this degree program?

"Take the time to communicate with the recruiters and become comfortable in the experience at Duquesne. Also, in preparation for the PhD, realize that creation of a schedule each semester will help you to evaluate the ability to balance the course of studies, work and home life." -- Ruth Irwin, Nursing PhD Graduate

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