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3 Tips To Be A Successful Online Learner

More Than Saving Time, Money, and Gas

By Stephanie J. BradberryPublished 3 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - June 2023
3 Tips To Be A Successful Online Learner
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

While distance learning is not new, the number of students turning to online education is. And it is not limited to students. Many employers force their employees to take some form of online learning in order to keep their job. And, yes, I mean “force.”

Employers are no different than students seeking the most cost-effective way to deliver and receive learning content. Unfortunately, many schools, employers, and students still have not calculated the true economic and social costs of relying on online courses and programs.

Since most formal education takes place in a classroom from pre-K to senior year in high school, students are familiar with means for success in that environment because they have been continuously honed. Those new to or pondering online education do not have the same advantage. So, here are ten tips for successful online learning.

1. Determine Your Strengths and Weaknesses

A major misstep in choosing online education is that many students assume that it is the right choice for them based on shallow reasoning. Mostly this amounts to hoping to save time, money and/or gas. This leads to a lot of disappointment and wasted money (yes, trying to save money could end up costing you). You can avoid all of this and be successful online if you know in advance if you have what it takes to be an online learner.

While I used to provide several links to help determine if online learning is for you, I have done away with those. Why? Because for most people, online learning comes down to perceived practicality. Even if a person is not a good online learner or does not want to be one, often people are forced to pursue distance education due to schedules, employment, childrearing, and so on. Therefore, determining if online learning is for you is essential moot these days. The real question is, How successful of an online learner are you?

If you know online learning is not for you, then it is best to strengthen your weaknesses. At some point, if not already, you are bound to encounter some form of distance learning. I always recommend doing a dry run with online learning. Before putting major dollars and time on the line, take a basic online course. This way you learn just how computer savvy or not you are, how much time you really are willing to dedicate, if you have the right equipment, and so on.

2. Avoid Fooling Yourself With Myths

Taking an online course just to save gas, time, money, or because you think it will be easy is just plain bad news. While it is true you will most certainly save gas, the other myths are just that. And the saving gas thing might end up a myth for many too. There are plenty of students I have come across that tried online learning only to magically find the time in their schedules to take in person classes again. Why? Just keep on reading…

Accredited online courses require more time and work. Why? Because you have to take the time to read a lot of assigned and supplemental material, oftentimes way more than what an in-person course would require. Then you must post discussion threads that take the place of in class discussion. There is no hiding in the back of a room like a wallflower. You must participate! In most for-credit online courses, everyone must post at minimum an original post and one or two response posts.

You also must complete course assignments in the form of quizzes, tests, and/or written works.

In person courses that normally would not require a quiz or test might require one for online students in order to check for understanding or that you are who you say you are.

And here comes the gas thing again. Sometimes institutions require you to take the test or final assessment in person. What? Yes, your whole course could be online, but you might have to use that gas and drive to a testing center or the college itself. A variation on this is being required to send in a paper copy of your final exam. I know because I used to have to grade them.

To burst your bubble a little more, sometimes you end up not saving time or money either. Do not be fooled by an institution that guarantees completion or a degree in a ridiculously short amount of time. You will know if it seems right based on comparisons to other schools. Make sure the institution is accredited. Accreditation varies for many reasons, but the main point is outside agencies ensure the school provides quality education. If you end up getting a bogus certificate or degree, you will have to spend more time and money to get a real one.

Ultimately, you can end up paying more, spending more and burning more gas than expected by trying to shortcut your way through a proper education.

3. Use Some Trees (But Also Recycle)

Work smarter and not harder any chance you get. You definitely want to print out a copy of the course syllabus and/or outline. Other materials you may access a lot should be printed out too.

This will help you be successful because you will not waste time toggling between pages and pop-up windows. Printing does not mean you have to use up all your paper and ink. You can simply print to PDF for longer documents and open and read as needed. This way you do not have to log in to the course every time you want to check or read something.

Sometimes important and frequently accessed information is not compiled neatly for downloading or copying. In this case, you should create a Word document and copy all the essay prompts, assignments, discussions and other course activities. You can then print this out for an easy reference guide.

Still concerned about using real paper instead of all digital? Take basic steps to be eco-friendly. Use both sides of the paper. Use recycled paper. And, also recycle the paper once your course is done. Of course you can also save on printer ink by handwriting important course aspects like due dates, reminders, topic headings, readings and so forth.

The Wrap-Up

Hopefully you came to realize that just because something is convenient does not mean it is necessarily easier or the best choice. I understand that circumstances often dictate our choices at the time. Just know that you need to put in as much—if not more—effort to being an online learner as a traditional student.

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her time in academia spans 20 years and counting as a professor of English, Literature, Business and Education, former high school English teacher, and more. She loves freelance writing and editing. She is the founder/owner of Stephanie J. Bradberry LLC and former founder/owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC. Learn more at or take one of her courses at

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About the Creator

Stephanie J. Bradberry

I have a passion for literature and anime. And I love everything involving academia, health, metaphysics and entrepreneurship.

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    Well articulated. These tips will help anyone

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  • Marcin Nowakowski2 months ago

    Great piece!

  • Robert Chapman3 months ago

    Thank you for writing this. It is quite insightful.

  • Nice work Very well written. Keep up the good work!

  • Aaron Typpö3 months ago

    This is just what I (20yrs old student) need

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  • Fantastic work as always Stephanie!!! 😎

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  • Raymond G. Taylor3 months ago

    Great tips Stephanie. If you decide on distance learning, or in-person is not an option, I’d suggest comparing providers before committing. Thanks for sharing

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