5 things students need to succeed in an online program

The flexibility of online courses can seem attractive to students, but they may not be aware of just how different online learning can be from a classroom setting, Anna Helhoski writes for NerdWallet.

Helhoski rounds up five things students need to succeed in an online program:

1: The right mindset. What makes online learning so flexible is that classes tend to be more independent and autonomous—but this also means students need to be more self-motivated. Finding the time and motivation can be doubly challenging for online students because they tend to be older and juggle more responsibilities than traditional undergrads.

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2: The right technology. It's not enough to have an iPhone or iPad, says Lynne Lander Fleisher, director of Clarion University Online. Experts say students really do need access to a computer and may also need the ability to download course-specific software. This can present an overwhelming obstacle for students who don't have computers or internet access at home.

3: The right learning style. "People who learn by doing tend not to enjoy the online experience," says Megan Pederson, teaching specialist and online academic advisor for University of Minnesota Crookston. Students who dislike lengthy reading assignments or who thrive on interaction with classmates may feel unhappy in online courses, which tend to rely more on independent work.

4: The right program. With the plethora of credentials and providers available, students often struggle to tell the difference between more and less legitimate programs, experts say. In 2016, nonprofit WorkCred estimated that 4,000 organizations offered alternative credentials.

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5: The right financial support. Online students may not realize that they can might be able to receive federal financial aid—in fact, the main reason students don't fill out FAFSA is because they think they won't qualify for any aid (Helhoski, NerdWallet, 12/25). 

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