How To Be A Highly Successful Online College Student [INFOGRAPHIC]

When most students hear the word “math” they think of the school subject consisting of repetitive, sometimes confusing, formulas that seem to have no application to their daily lives outside of shopping and cooking. However, Elementary School math teacher, Trisha Baxter, sees things differently. With a strong interest in the field of online education, Ms. Baxter decided to take her daily teaching subject and apply it to e-learning. Using her familiarity with math and the workings of a classroom, Ms. Baxter created a formula that should allow students to more effectively manage their time, work independently, and focus within the confines of a distance learning environment.

Check out this great infographic, a visual representation of the formula, detailing how online college students could more effectively work toward and achieve their goals in the arena of online learning.

Online College Student Success

Source: Online College Plan

The Four Cs of Online Education

36302079_sA school’s role is complex and constantly developing. What began as means through which to teach a trade evolved into a forum through which to impart knowledge. Today’s classrooms go beyond these original objectives and are intended to “prepare all students to be active participants in our exciting global community” (Kolk 2011). This new classroom goal is often summarized in “The Four Cs” – Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. A successful teacher will be sure to incorporate these themes into his lessons and classroom design.

However, the Four Cs play a slightly different role in an online course. Not only will students who nurture these skills be equipped to tackle today’s changing society, students who use these strategies in online courses are likely to succeed in a positive, stress-free environment. Check out the tips below to learn how to integrate the Four Cs into your online classroom.

Communication: Both the instructor and students play a significant role in effectively communicating in an online course. Instructors should be careful to create an intuitive course structure, write clear instructions, and effectively communicate their expectations. Students should pay special attention to the syllabus, all announcements, and discussion boards (Johnson 2015).

Commitment: An online course is often more work than a traditional one, not less. Therefore, due to the coupling of hours of school work with unstructured time in which to complete it, online students need to be very self-disciplined and organized in order to do well. Before a course begins, it is wise for students to allocate a proper amount of time each week in which to complete all readings and assignments as well as set aside a fixed location in which to do all schoolwork. Click here to learn more about what it takes to be an online student.

Community: Once again, both the instructors and students contribute to creating a strong sense of community in an online class. Instructors should portray themselves as a personable individual (instead of just a name on a screen) and interact with students personally, as opposed to only sending out mass messages. Students can form a virtual community through interacting with their peers via discussion boards and seeking each other out when they need help with an assignment. These relationships remove feelings of isolation and can dramatically increase a student’s performance in an online course.

Collaboration: The goal of education is not to walk out with a degree; it is to walk out with an education. A crucial component of the learning process to is to interact with learned thoughts and ideas and apply the sometimes intangible concepts. Collaboration is important in an online classroom because it facilitates this aspect of learning. Online students should work with their classmates to hone their critical thinking and analysis as well as to engage in active learning through teaching the information and receiving feedback.

How do you integrate the Four Cs into your online classroom?


The 21st Century Classroom – Where the 3 Rs Meet the 4Cs! by Melinda Kolk on

Four Cs of Success in the Online Classroom by Ronald Johnson and Katherine Riddle on

Understand the Commitment Involved with Online Education on

An Online Course is not a Rubber Band

rubber bandMeet Christie. She is a motivated junior majoring in Psychology. Because of her hectic schedule (balancing two internships, a research position, vice-president of student government, and training for a marathon), she does not have time to take her entire course load in person.

Enter online courses! Christie’s solution to her packed, 24-hour days. Online courses, she thinks, will enable her to learn, explore a new field of study, and comprehend the course objectives, without having time to do any of that.

Yeah. That is not going to happen.

While a major advantage of an online course is its flexibility, the course is not a rubber band. It can be given in a number of different ways (synchronously, asynchronously. etc.) and often completed at any time of day (3 AM anyone?). However, despite some students’ perceptions, it cannot be completely contorted to bear no resemblance to a traditional course.

Christie needs to play to her strengths if she wants to excel in the online environment.

  1. Prioritize – It is highly unlikely that Christie would ever miss a training meet because she knows that she needs to stay physically fit in order to run the race. So too, students need to view online courses as a priority in their weekly work-load.
  1. Schedule – Everything from penguin feeding at the zoo to FedEx deliveries throughout the country are successfully completed because they stick to a schedule. Since asynchronous online courses lack this critical quality, Christie must be sure to schedule it into her daily and weekly routine.
  1. Coach – Christie knows that she excels in an atmosphere where structure and guidance allow her to thrive. Students should not feel like an online course is simply a “Do It Yourself Course.” Rather, they should view their instructors as support and strive to stay connected with their teachers through emails, questions, discussion boards, and other course-related interactions.
  1. Teammates – In what industry are teammates unimportant? Christie needs to seize the opportunity to be a team player in her online classroom. By contributing her ideas, work, and support to her classmates, she will in return receive the assistance and encouragement that she needs to pass the course with flying colors.
  1. Goal-driven – Never does Christie wait until an ultimate objective is met in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Rather, she takes pride in small victories throughout the journey. Online students should be proud of their achievements throughout the course, not only when they receive their final grades.
  1. Enjoy – Christie looks forward to her extra-curricular activities. She values her internships, delights in her hobbies, and had the opportunity to choose the school which she attends. If she can recognize the value and importance of her online course then it will shift from a burden to boon and become that much easier to do.

With these suggestions in hand, Christie should be well-armed to shine in class. What advice would you give to Christie?

MUSIC Model of Motivation

Motivation ImageAll educators know that it is important to motivate students. No matter how exciting or necessary the material, students must be motivated to learn, study, and achieve.

Dr. Brett Jones, a professor of education at Virginia Tech, has studied what motivates students most. In response, he developed the MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation. MUSIC is an acronym for: eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring.

Though this model primarily focuses on in-classroom instruction, Dr. Jones has developed the theory to include motivation in an online setting. Below is a summary of how each of the five components of the MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation can be applied in online education:

eMpowerment – Students need to feel some sort of ownership over their work and have the ability to make their own choices. In an online setting, this could include allowing students to choose what sort of assessments they would like to complete or choosing their own paper topic.

Useful – Students need to know that the subject material is useful and practical. Therefore, instructors must reassure them through words and examples that this is the case. Online assignments should demonstrate a subject’s usefulness. Professors can take advantage of the online medium and teach with real-word examples and articles.

Successful – Students need to know that if they perform what is asked of them then they will succeed in in the course. Instructors need to appropriately convey expectations and ensure that each assignment and assessment is manageable and will help the students. It is also very important, especially online, for professors to provide constant feedback on students’ work and efforts.

Interest – Students have to be interested in the subject material. One of the most effective ways to engender this interest is to teach in different manners. Professors can try to vary the way they teach material online and incorporate extra, stimulating material into the curriculum.

Caring – Students need to know that their instructors care about them on an academic and personal level. This can be particular challenge in an online environment because there is no face-to-face contact. Therefore, professors need to ensure that all correspondences relay their concern for their students and to take an interest in their students’ lives. They should respect and appreciate students’ academic achievements and personalities.


Top 10 Ways to Battle Procrastination

Clock picture for blog postStudents regularly fall prey to procrastination. This often occurs at home while they try to finish assignments or long term papers.

Since most online learning is done entirely at home (or wherever else one chooses to work), it is especially important for e-learners to be prepared to tackle procrastination. Here are 10 tips to beat procrastination:

  1. Reward yourself. You know what you like. Whether it is shopping, conversation, baking, etc., promise to reward yourself for getting a certain amount of work done.
  2. Set small goals. A work load can often be daunting and prevent students from starting. Take it bit by bit.
  3. Set earlier deadlines. Some students do their best work under pressure. If that is your case, consider setting personal, earlier deadlines to encourage you to complete the assignments.
  4. Just start. Whether it is reading only an article or two or simply getting a paragraph on paper, once you begin it will be easier to continue, even if it is at a later point.
  5. Create accountability. Make a deal with a fellow student that you will each complete a certain amount of work by a pre-designated time. This accountability to a classmate can encourage you to finish.
  6. Use a timer. If you allow yourself to take breaks, use a timer on your computer to remind you to stop surfing the web and return to your required activity.
  7. Evaluate the distractors. Sometimes an opportunity arises which is too great to refuse. Recognize which distractors are worthwhile and which will only hurt you in the long run.
  8. Turn off social media. Silence your phone and log off social media sights so that you will not be tempted by any friendly alerts.
  9. Do some easy tasks. Try starting with a quick and easy assignment to get you into the studying mindset.
  10. Compartmentalize. If something else important is fighting for your attention, put it off. Don’t say that you cannot think about – just that you will think about it soon.

Let us know – how do you overcome procrastination?

Making the Leap: 7 Tips for New Online Learners

28897238_s - Second Copy CroppedWill this semester be your first time taking an online course? While a syllabus should outline the technicalities and course navigation, the mental leap from traditional instruction to a virtual classroom can be daunting. Here are 7 suggestions to make the transition easier.

  1. Recognize that e-learning is different type of learning experience. Don’t compare it to a traditional course. Although it may seem strange, give the virtual learning methods a chance and explore a new pedagogical arena.
  1. Learn how you like. Enrich your learning experience by finding supplementary resources which you enjoy using. They could be familiar resources, like powerpoints and informative videos, or perhaps new tools like prezi or TED Talks.
  1. Share what you find with your classmates. If you liked it, chances are that they will too. You can create a larger and more united environment for your classmate community.
  1. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn. Don’t submit reading responses only in order to make the grade. Choose to make the most of the experience and continually appreciate learning new things.
  1. Team up with another first time e-learner. Whether or not you are taking the same course, it is a good idea to have a friend who can jointly relate to your position.
  1. Find a mentor who had a positive online learning experience. Look around – it is likely that a neighbor or a fellow student made this leap a little while ago. Ask for practical advice and do not scoff at comforting reassurance.
  1. Have fun! – Learning is great.

What helped you make the transition from a traditional student to an e-learner?

5 Elements of Effective E-Learning


It’s pretty easy for students to click through powerpoint slides or listen to an online lecture, but will the knowledge really stick? How can instructors present course material and design review questions in such a way that students will retain the information?

To shed light on this question, identifies 5 elements that make eLearning most effective:

  1. Learner-Centric Design, which focuses on what students should be able to do upon completion of the program (as opposed to a content-centric approach, which places greater emphasis on the amount and quality of material covered).

    In a learner-centric approach, the instructor determines which skills the students will need to master, and then breaks down those skills into sub-tasks. Throughout the course, students are presented with realistic scenarios and encounter relevant challenges so as to learn how to deal with them.

  2. Intrinsic Feedback – When a student answers a question correctly or incorrectly, the subsequent feedback should be similar to the feedback the students would receive in a real-life scenario. For example, when a business student answers a question correctly about how to properly treat a customer, the e-Learning module can show an image or animation of a smiling customer – rather than just displaying “Correct!” on the screen.
  3. Delayed Feedback – Before marking a student’s answer as right or wrong, it’s a good idea to gives the student a chance to reflect why he or she chose that answer. This process of reflection helps to deepen a student’s understanding of the material.
  4. Case Studies and Branching Scenarios – After learning new information or skills, students should be given the chance to apply their knowledge to real-life scenarios. The situations may include branching scenarios so that students can practice making decisions and seeing the consequences of their choices.
  5. Motivation – Students are more motivated to pay attention and succeed in their studies if they understand why the material is important and relevant to their life and career goals. To promote absorption of the knowledge, instructors can tell students why each activity will help them achieve something they care about. Students will also feel more motivated if they play educational games that include elements of risk or drama.

For more details and examples of how to implement these 5 elements into eLearning modules, see the What is Effective eLearning? on

Which Factors Contribute Most to Student Satisfaction in Online Education Settings?


What is the best way to design online courses so as to maximize student satisfaction?

A Predictive Study of Student Satisfaction in Online Education Programs investigated 5 factors of online courses to ascertain which ones are the strongest predictors of student satisfaction in online settings.

The article was published in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning and conducted by Yu-Chun Kuo, Andrew E. Walker, Brian R. Belland, and Kerstin E. E. Schroder.

In this study, researchers distributed an online survey to 291 students enrolled in any of 11 summer-session online courses, of which 111 students responded. Most students were between 26-35 years old.

Researchers found that the strongest predictor of student satisfaction was learner-content interaction, defined as the process through which learners reflect and elaborate on the course material.

How can professors increase learner-content interaction? The researchers suggest:

Inclusion of tasks that involve collaboration and searching online resources may help enhance learners’ interaction with content. For instance, problem-based learning would encourage online learners to apply their information search skills to resolve authentic problems, which in turn increases learners’ interaction with the content as well as their problem solving skills (An & Reigeluth, 2008).

In other words, the more that students are encouraged to think about the material and process it in different ways, the more they will value and appreciate the course.

Two other factors found to be significant predictors of student satisfaction were learner-instructor interaction and internet self-efficacy (an individual’s confidence in his ability to carry out internet related tasks). Professors can increase the former by incorporating flexibility into the course setup. Universities can support the latter by proving internet training to students prior to their enrollment in online courses.

Factors found to have a negligible effect on student satisfaction were learner-learner interaction (communication among peers regarding the course material) and self-regulated learning (motivation and learning strategies that students use to achieve their educational goals). That said, the researchers did indicate that these factors may in fact be quite significant for student satisfaction, even though this particular study did not show it.

Which factors do you think contribute most to student satisfaction in online courses? Share your thoughts with us and let us know how you intend to increase student satisfaction in your online courses.

How Do Online Courses Prepare Students for the Work World?

Online courses are not just a solution to the problem of scheduling conflicts and freeing up classroom space. When managed responsibly, online courses can provide students with valuable skills that will carry them though the process of job applications and ultimately, long-term career success.

Self-discipline: Taking an online course requires a healthy dose of self-discipline. When taking an online course, students must learn to manage their own schedules and be responsible for completing their assignment on time. Often, students taking online courses are balancing their schoolwork with family life and a full-time or part-time job. In such situations, students are forced to find ways to put aside all distractions and focus solely on their schoolwork, without the aid of the classroom setting and professor’s presence to help them keep focused.

Accountability: Professors are less inclined to accept excuses for missing or incomplete assignments when students have so much flexibility in their schedule. It’s one thing for a student to say he had to miss class for a dentist appointment; it’s quite another for him to say that he couldn’t find a 30-minute slot in his week to take the weekly quiz.

Organization & Time Management: Every week, students must remember to check the updates and announcements for each of their online courses. They must remember to study course materials, work on assignments, participate in discussion boards, and fill out tests and quizzes. Deadlines or test dates might be posted only once, and there is no professor around to remind students about their assignements day after day.

Internet research skills: With a wealth of online resources just a few clicks away, students in online courses will naturally gravitate toward finding answers to their questions online. Instead of raising their hand and asking the professor, students learn to research concepts and and resolve their questions on their own.

Staying motivated: In an online course, students lack the natural pressure generated by their professor and fellow students. In the absence of these factors, students learn create their own internal drive to succeed.

Being proactive: When students don’t understand concepts in the classroom, they can easily get clarification from their peers or from the professor. In an online course, however, students can’t just lean over to their friends or walk right up to the professor; they must learn to reach out and ask for help from others. Which leads in to the next skill:

Communicating Online: Students learn how to communicate with their professor and peers by writing clear, purposeful, and thought-out emails. This is a valuable skill for future employment, since much of business communication occurs over the internet. In particular, students of online courses learn to communicate with people whom they have never met face-to-face.

Adaptability: In a traditional university course, schedules and assignments are structured and predictable. But in an online course, there is substantial flexibility, and with that flexibility comes more room for chaos. Internet connections may be shaky or crash entirely, or students might get very busy with their other jobs and responsibilities. While working through an online course, students learn to adapt to these changes and develop strategies to work around them in order to get their work done.