100% student success book cover

CityU Library Reviews: “100% online student success”

Review by Theresa Gehrig, Instruction Librarian

What are the characteristics of a successful online student?  A Harris Interactive survey (Statista, 2014) relates that 51% of online learners rate convenience as biggest benefit of online learning. The convenience of working online (any time of the day or night and anywhere in the world) can make it seem as if an online class is easier than an in-person class.

The freedom of not having to show up to class at a certain time, comes with the challenge of time management (which really means self-management).  35% of online learners name self-discipline as the greatest challenge to their success.

I have skimmed DuVivie’s book (2009) and perused many online lists from university websites. From these varied source I find agreement on many themes and concepts.

From my own experience working with online students and being an online student, I’d like to highlight the following concepts.  I have grouped these three themes: Attitude & Communication, Technology, Time management.

Attitude & Communication

  • Practice a positive attitude. “I Think I can!” sounds trite but confidence in your ability to learn, persevere and succeed is a common quality of successful online students. Keep long term goals before you. Expect problems and believe you can discover creative solutions.
  • If you would not do or say something in real life, don’t do it online. Written language cannot deliver tone or body language. Remember you can’t unsay something you post. No one is perfect. Be respectful and forgiving. Assume the best –expect the best. People do rise to expectations.
  • Communicate early and often. Ask questions and get to know your instructors and fellow students early in your course. It is worth time it takes to connect and get to know each other. Learning each other’s personalities and strengths can prevent miscommunication and facilitate a sense of community and belonging.
  • Stay on topic and weigh your words. Online reading is different from print. Brief and concise online communications get read. Get straight to the point. Keep sentences short – keep paragraphs short – add spacing to help the eyes. Don’t repeat what has already been said. Don’t waste attention or space with easy or obvious questions you can answer yourself.


  • Possess the technical requirements and proficiencies. A reliable internet connection and computer, access to a printer if you prefer to read from paper copies, webcam and headset if online meetings are expected, and a familiarity with the course management system. Take advantage of tutorials before you need to use them.
  • Plan for technology to fail you – at some point. Servers crash, the Internet goes down, links break, etc. Be ready to shift from panic mode to problem-solving mode. Have workarounds and backups (e.g. cloud storage) and be ready to troubleshoot issues. Inform others of technology issues as soon as discovered. Keep backups of all your work.

Time management

  • Organize schedules, projects, due dates. Use tools or systems which allows you to track and stay on top of due dates, schedules, to-dos, readings, etc. Read ahead so you can plan and be on time: syllabus, course schedule, assignments, instructions.
  • Work in small chunks of time. Don’t wait for a long windows of time to tackle your coursework. Work in short focused bursts with breaks in between. Take advantage of short chunks of free time to study, take notes, and write.

Related Resources

Colorado State University (n.d.). Netiquette: Ground rules for online discussions. Retrieved from  http://teaching.colostate.edu/tips/tip.cfm?tipid=128

DuVivier, R. S. (2009). 100% online student success. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar/Cengage Learning.

Fairmont State University (n.d.). Characteristics of a Successful Online Student. Retrieved from https://www.fairmontstate.edu/academics/distancelearning/successful_student.asp

Lytle, R. & U.S. News & World Report (2016). 5 Tips to Succeed in an Online Course. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/01/14/5-tips-to-succeed-in-an-online-course

Touro College Online Education Blog. (2016). 15 Rules of Netiquette for Online Discussion Boards. Retrieved from http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/15-rules-netiquette-online-discussion-boards/

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