Welcome to my list of every possible skill you’ll ever need if you want to be a successful online learner. Now, you don’t need to be a 100% superstar at all these skills, but you’ll have the get the hang of them eventually.
Some you’ll need to be fairly good at right from the get-go. Others you can acquire as go along. But whatever happens, you will need to be good at them reasonably quickly. So, grab a coffee, turn off your distractions, and strap in for all you need to become a successful online learner.
The most obvious one is computer skills, but that sounds a bit vague. Let’s look at precisely what you’ll need to know.
1. Reasonable Word Processor Skills
You’ll need to have access to and be able to use a word processor program. There are many out there but the most well-known are Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and Google Docs. You have to pay for Microsoft Word, but the other two are free. All you need to do is either download OpenOffice or sign up for Gmail, which you can learn how to do here.
Using a word processor is one of the skills you will absolutely need to acquire to be a successful online learner. This means that you can’t start studying unless you know what you are doing, so if you don’t, get started now!
2. Proficient in Using a Browser
This is another one that you need to have. However, I am going to assume you know how to use a browser or you wouldn’t be reading this. Mind you, you might be reading this to help out an older person, so I’ll go over a few things.
You’ll need to know how to:
- go to a specific URL or web page. At the top of your browser is an address bar. You need to be able to navigate to specific sites using it.
- print or save a web page. This will be useful for keeping files of material you need to study. Printing is still a large part of studying online, I’m afraid.
- follow a hypertext link. Normally, hyperlinks are reasonably obvious but sometimes they can be a bit difficult to recognise
- search using Google search engine. You don’t have to use Google but let’s be honest, everyone else will be so you might as well too.
- open new tabs. There are a few things you can do here.
- hold ctrl + click link if you want to open a tab in the background.
- hold ctrl + shift (at the same time) + click link if you want to open a tab in the background.
- install Tab Activate (click to open in new tab) as an extension and follow the instructions.
Finally, you will need to know which browser you are using. This is because you may be given different instructions for different browsers.
3. Understand How E-mail Works
Another vital one here for every successful online learner. To be honest, it feels a bit like I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but as an ex-teacher, sometimes having a degree in ‘Stating the Bleeding Obvious’ comes in handy.
If you signed up for gmail above, then you are already sorted. If you didn’t do it earlier, I would go and do it now. Having a gmail email, and everything that goes with it, is really a no-brainer.
4. Be Prepared to Never Give Up
There is a great quote from Calvin Coolidge that I absolutely love. It was probably made famous in movie “The Founder”. If you have seen the movie, you may remember Michael Keaton talking about persistence in front of a mirror. It stood out for me because it was so powerful.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
This should be your attitude to if you wish to be a successful online earning. In all honesty, it has to be your attitude because you are probably going to want to give up at least once a day. If you are persistent, you will succeed.
5. Manage Your Time Properly
This is another vitally important skill you need from the outset. If you don’t know how to manage your time, you will get into trouble early. You’ll have a lot to learn and do in your first month and if you are not great at time management, you will soon fall behind, get overwhelmed, and consider giving up.
I wrote a post the other day which included a section on time management. Rather than write it out again here, click this link and you can read about it there. Actually, having just read the post again, quite a lot of it is relevant to a successful online learner even though I originally wrote it for making money online. So click here to read more.
At the beginning of the article is a section about finding out what you spend your time doing and how you can find more time. Think about doing that before anything else, as this will tell you how much time your really have in the day and whether studying from home is possible. If it isn’t, maybe you should think about the theme of the whole article as you are obviously working way too hard!
6. Commit to the Time You Have Allotted
At first glance, this seems similar to time management, but it isn’t. Time management is about managing your time in the most effective way. For example, if your lecturers have released their lectures in a podcast format, can you listen to them while driving or during your lunch break? You can often do two things at once so looking for those opportunities will help you a great deal.
Committing to the time you have decided to use for studying means exactly that. If you have worked out that you need 15 hours a week to study, you need to commit to that. If you need 15 hours a week, and only study 10, you’re going to fall behind.
It’s also important to commit to that time because, as you will see in point XXX below, you will often be working as part of a group, and you will have other responsibilities apart from your own.
7. Have a Great Deal of Patience
I was thinking of putting this is the ‘need to have later’ section but really, that isn’t true. You need to have a lot of patience right from the start, and that’s because of two things in particular.
Firstly, patience and time management go together. If your time management is not first rate, you are going to get into trouble getting things done. Working out how best to manage your time takes patience, and a lot of it.
You need to accept that things aren’t going to go right all the time. The assignment you thought you had a week to do will suddenly be due tomorrow. The book you were meant to have read by last week will still be sitting on the shelf untouched. Plus, they’ll be half a dozen other things you should have done.
You’ll need patience to get back control of your life. You’ll need to work out where you are going wrong with your time management, what you have been spending too much time on and not enough time on, and generally reorganise your life. The second reason you need patience is below.
8. Work as Part of a Team
Just because you are working at home, rather than in a university surrounded by other students, does not mean that you will be working alone.
At university, you often have to get into teams or groups for group assignments. You need to be able to contact your team members, make sure you understand what they want from you and vise versa, and you’ll have to learn how to communicate well.
Of course, you will have to communicate with your team members by email, Skype, whatsapp, or using the dedicated IM system of the university, if it has one. You will be surprised how easy it is to misunderstand the simplest of instructions, so be prepared to count to 10 often.
9. Learn How to Communicate Effectively
This follows on from the last point about working as part of a team. You need to be able to put down your thoughts in a clear and concise manner so that what you are trying to say is easy to understand, and doesn’t require three cups of coffee to read.
For example, make sure that everyone you are communicating with on a regular basis knows that you will get to the point as quickly as possible, and that you are not going to use 10 words when one word will do. Clear writing is made up of short sentences using small words. And yes, re-reading this post, I have noticed the irony of that last sentence.
10. Have an Environment Good for Studying
If you are doing your budget for the week or working out the household chores rota, then there is no problem sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. However, if you are trying to justify the mystery of why Moby Dick is considered a classic (don’t worry, you can’t), then you need to have a dedicated place to study.
Since I don’t know the layout of your home, there is little point me telling you what you should do, but you probably have a good idea anyway. One thing I would recommend is buy yourself a long table, similar to the one below.
Notice there is enough room to move away from the computer. This is what you want as computers are a distraction. If you can move away from your computer, especially when writing, you’ll be amazed at the amount of work you can achieve.
11. Good Reading and Writing Skills
I think it’s fair to assume you can read and write, but you may not know how how to write well. You’ll have to learn how to do that eventually, but you don’t need to have immediately.
If you have been out of education for a while, don’t worry about being a good writer. Your lecturers will be understanding about your shortcomings, and give you time to get the hang of writing again.
On a personal note, if you want to be a successful online learner, always be thinking about your sources and make sure you cite them properly. It’s very embarrassing to have lecturers keep shouting at you about plagiarism.
Wrapping Being a Successful Online Learner Up
And there you have it. A fairly comprehensive list of skills you need to become a successful online learner. Thanks for reading and feel free to add more skills in the comments below.
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