Preparing for Online Courses

Characteristics of Successful Online Learning

While the qualities of successful distance learners vary, there are certain characteristics and habits that students should be aware of to improve their chances of success with distance education. The information on this page is based on advice from instructors and students who have had positive distance learning experiences in online
and hybrid courses.

View the video and expand the topics below  to learn more about what it takes to be successful in online learning here at Delaware Tech, as well as some of the common myths about online education.

Good Study Habits

One of the best ways to be a successful distance learner is to develop and execute good study habits

  • checking your Delaware Tech email account and logging onto your course at least once a day if possible
  • time management – don’t let assignments go until the last day
  • use all available resources
  • work in a quiet, uninterrupted area as much as possible
  • dedicate at least 3 hours per week for each credit hour of your course
  • communicate frequently with your instructor and peers
  • reach out when you need help

Self-Discipline and Motivation

Another characteristic shared by successful distance learners is self-discipline. This distinguishing feature is usually seen in the learner’s ability to stay current with class assignments, participate on a regular basis in online discussions, and adhere to assignment due dates.

One way to promote self-discipline is to organize your time using a calendar. Schedule an appointment time on your calendar to study for an exam, work on assignments, and complete assigned readings. Be sure to arrive to your appointment on time and stay for the full allotted time. Your appointment should
take place in an area dedicated to your studies and free from distractions.

Distance learners need to be self-motivated. Unlike traditional courses in which the students and instructor meet face-to-face, learning activities and communication in distance learning courses are remote. This arrangement allows you the flexibility to work when it is most convenient for you. But this also means that you are responsible to remain motivated, engaged, and informed.

Time Management

Time management is a commitment; you must set aside a significant amount of time each week for class work. Distance learning classes require as much time and effort as traditional classroom courses, if not more. If your class is a 3-credit hour class you should schedule a minimum of nine hours each week to accomplish course work. The rule is 3 hours of work for each credit hour, per week. If your course is a hybrid course, then use the rule to determine how much time you should be spending on course work outside of class time based on the number of credit hours.

It is important not leave assignments until the last minute. Plan your time to include any potential technical difficulties in software, hardware, or internet connections. Typically, for assignments that are not completed on time, instructors assign a grade of zero or reduce the grade by a percentage. These details will be posted in the course syllabus. Using the course syllabus as a guide and the calendar you developed for self-discipline will help you better manage your time


In addition to time management, a key component of success in an online course is staying engaged. If you don’t know what is going on in the course, what other students are doing, or what the instructor is communicating to the class, you will find it very difficult to meet the course objectives. Here are easy ways to remain engaged in an online course:

  • Log in to the course at least once a day to check for new announcements and upcoming due dates.
  • Check your Delaware Tech email at least once per day.
  • Contact your instructor ASAP if you miss a deadline.
  • Check your grades on a weekly basis. If you don’t understand why you received a grade, reach out to your instructor.

Class Communication

Successful distance learners interact frequently with instructors and fellow students during course activities. As an online student, effective communication is key, but can be difficult. Without the face-to-face contact of a traditional classroom, written communication becomes critical. This is often referred to as “netiquette” and includes using appropriate language, respectful behavior, maintaining professionalism, and an acknowledgement of other people’s privacy interests. Since written communication lacks the facial expressions, tone of voice and other non-verbal cues seen or heard during face-to-face communication, the following tips are recommended.

  • identify course and section in the subject line of email
  • when asking a question, be specific and provide details about what you are trying to figure out and what you don’t understand
  • always identify yourself in the message
  • keep it simple – be clear and concise
  • write professionally, but as you would talk
  • avoid “texting” language, foul language or slang
  • write in a positive tone
  • do not respond in anger
  • always edit and proofread your work before you send it
  • check spelling and grammar

Technical Skills

To successfully navigate and participate in distance education courses, students should be confident with a minimum level of technical and computer skills. This includes online file management, word processing, basic video recording and playback, and utilization of the learning management system.


View Minimum Technology Requirements.

Girl with glasses on laptop