Remote learners tend to succeed more easily if they possess certain essential qualities. The good news: even if you weren’t born with natural strengths in these areas, you can grow these traits through practice and activities that help you establish effective routines and develop productive habits.

Self-disciplined. When you are studying (or working) remotely, nobody is watching over your shoulder to make sure you accomplish everything you should. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If you are the type who bristles at being micromanaged, you may enjoy this independence. However, it’s easy to get lax about deadlines and obligations when there is nobody there to nudge you. Online learners must be self-driven and able to stay motivated without someone pushing them. If this is a challenge for you, take advantage of tools and resources that can help, such as electronic alerts that remind you of important tasks on your schedule or distraction-blocking programs that ensure you stay focused.

Resourceful. This goes along with the theme of being independent. The most successful online learners are often adept at investigating resources they can use to complete assignments or accomplish major goals. They tend to have great detective skills that allow them to ferret out even the most obscure fact or uncover online treasure troves of useful information. You’re not all on your own, though. There are resources to help you — such as the Penn State research librarians. Instructors are also usually happy to suggest ways to find the material you need.

Organized. There are many things you need to keep track of for each course, such as assignments, exams, and books or other research materials. Getting into a routine and developing a schedule that keeps you on track for the week or semester may take a little time, especially if it has been a while since you were last in school. Setting up a well-organized system will keep you from forgetting tasks or losing things you need. Many students find it helpful to block off time on their schedule for each individual task, no matter how small — and this includes reserving time for studying, so you don’t need to cram for an exam at the last minute. There are a wealth of easy-to-use organizational tools and programs that can help, and many of them are free. Explore tools like Trello or DayViewer, or create your own resources with Canva’s calendar templates.

Flexible. Learning in an online setting will involve using tools and systems that may be new to you. Specific courses may be set up in slightly different ways, depending on the instructor’s preference and the structure of the course. You must be open to learning new processes and exploring unfamiliar tools. This may involve a little bit of a learning curve at first, but you will likely master these skills more quickly than you think, and soon you will be navigating these platforms like an old pro.

Comfortable with technology. Don’t worry. This is definitely something you can improve on if you aren’t there quite yet. You don’t need to be an IT wizard, but you do need to know some basic fundamentals. To start, you will need to be able to access your course materials and workspace. Depending on the course, you may also need to be able to participate in web-based meetings or video chats. Penn State World Campus students use several basic systems, including Canvas, LionPATH, and Penn State email. All of these are easy to access and navigate once you get familiar with them. New students receive information about these tools during orientation and have access to guides and tutorials. In addition, the Penn State IT Service Desk is always available to help with tech questions and issues. 

Finally, always remember that you have the resources and support of the Penn State community behind you while you use these attributes to accomplish your goals!