Attributes of a Successful Learner
About this class
Your next steps
How to Succeed at
This Project Management Certification program is a unique opportunity to
learn, share your experience with peers, and gain knowledge. All of the
materials you need for this class are found on the Blackboard site.
You will find the class content is organized around the following
The How to Succeed at Distance Learning tab indicates how these elements
will be used. When finished, review the next steps.
By participating in this online course, you made a decision to join the
ranks of a growing population of distance learners. Distance learning
instruction is one of the fastest growing areas in education. In fact,
according to a 2011 survey, 6.1 million learners were enrolled in a
distance learning program. (Allen, I.E, & Seaman, J. 2011).
Distance education is a method of education in which the learner is
physically separated from the institution and the instructor.
(Simonson et al, 2011). Online (or distance learning) offers an
opportunity to pursue learning outside of a traditional “brick and
How to Succeed at
Succeeding in a traditional classroom requires a certain set of learning
characteristics. Succeeding in a distance learning classroom requires some of the
same, and some very different skills.
You may find that you already exhibit some of these attributes, and may need to
work on others. The characteristics of successful distance learning are listed
Highly motivated learners can also be described as self-directed leaners. A
self-directed learner has an awareness of his/her own learning process
(Olgren, 1998). Another way of thinking of self-direction can be described
as high internal locus of control. If you have a high “internal” locus of
control, you believe you are in control of your learning; an “external” locus
of control means you expect external forces to be in control of your learning.
In studies, students with an internal locus of control were more likely to
succeed when faced with challenges in distance learning. (Simonson, M. et
al, 2011). A distance learner will be more successful when he/she “gains
power and control over their personal learning styles and the learning
process” (Zapalska & Brozik, 2007, p. 12).
In a traditional classroom environment, the learner sits through lectures and
waits for assignments from the instructor. In distance learning, the learner
displays independence throughout the learning process. Self-discipline and self-
pacing are important elements to successful distance learners (Johnson, 2007).
Learners who display an interest in their own success by setting goals and
being self-starters are more likely to complete a distance learning class.
Technology is certainly an important factor in successful online learning. Distance
learners must have basic computer skills (ability to download files, send emails,
conduct internet searches.) Being fluent in technology not only means understanding
the basics of computer use, but being savvy about how technology can benefit you as
a learner. You may need to broaden your research skills and embrace new technology
tools – rather than relying on Google for best research sources. (Kolowich, 2010).
In this course, you will use a variety of technologies to interact with your fellow
students. Much of the class content will be delivered through course Wikis. You will
have an opportunity to interact with your fellow students through the discussion
boards, and you will post your comments regarding assignments on your blog.
Organizational skills, including communication-related skills, are identified as
core competencies for the distance learner (William, 2003). Course collaboration
is an important element in distance learning models. Collaboration requires
learners to use online learning technologies and communication skills to engage
in discussions and group projects. Powell (2000) describes the online learner as
“someone who is very comfortable with written communications, somewhat
savvy with Web technologies, and proficient with computers.”
Another organizational skill is time management. Unlike traditional “brick and
mortar” educational institutions which consist of scheduled lectures and labs,
distance learning requires the learner to be organized, especially in regards to
time management. This requires leaners to schedule their own learning time and
stick to the schedule.
Developing the attributes of a successful distance learner will help you
navigate this course. In addition, the following steps will help ensure your
success in this course:
• Review the course syllabus.
• Review technology requirements. Check your technology for internet
access, necessary software, browser access, etc.
• Introduce yourself in the class discussion group. Create a brief
paragraph describing your location, education and work experience,
and why you are taking this course.
• Review the course Wikis.
• Review course outline and assignment due dates – schedule
assignment dates in your calendar.
• Provide your email address to the course instructor.
• Ask questions! Contact the instructor with any questions or comments.
Dabbagh, N. (2007). The online learner: Characteristics and pedagogical
implications. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education[Online
serial], 7(3). Retrieved from
Johnson, E. (2007). Promoting learner-learner interactions through ecological
assessments of the online environment. Journal of Online Teaching, (3) 2.
Retrieved May 27, 2012 from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no2/johnson.htm
Kolowich, S. (2010). Technologically illiterate students. Inside Higher Education
[Online serial], retrieved from http://www.indisdehighered.com.
Simonson, M. , Smaldino, S. , Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and
learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. (5thed.). Boston, MA:
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