Section 1.5 Online Learner Characteristics, Technology and Skill Requirements

To be a good candidate for online learning, the student must be committed to learning, have a positive attitude, be willing to take on a challenge, and possess time management skills. Generally, the traditional classroom allowed, even conditioned the learner to be passive. In contrast, the online learner will need to take an active role in the learning process. They must take control of his/her learning to be successful. “Students lacking in sound study skills or habits will experience less success and satisfaction in an online learning environment” (Anderson, 2008, p. 170). Davies and Bernard et al. found (as cited by Anderson) “undergraduates tend to benefit less than graduate students from distance methods suggests the importance of maturity, and of a “watchful and helpful” instructor stance” (p. 170).

The learner must be self-directed and motivated to succeed in online learning. Online learners require differing skills. Biesenbach-Lucas (as cited by Anderson) state, “online learners must not only understand ideas and concepts, they must be able to explain them articulately to others using text. Successful online learners need an environment where they can both acquire and exercise their skills to achieve personal learning goals” and receive support and assistance from the online instructor as needed (p. 171).

If you have the opportunity to communicate with students enrolled in your online course in advance, consider sending them the following Online Learner Self-Assessment Survey developed by M.D. Roblyer for the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga Online M. Ed. Program. This instrument enables students to assess their ability to succeed in an online learning environment:

Below is another survey of Self Assessment Study Habits from ASU’s E-Learning Center:

Technology and Skill Requirements Resources for Students

The following computer and technology skills have been identified for the online student (O’Neil et al., p. 63):

  • Ability to use devices to communicate with other systems to access data, upload, download
  • Ability to use e-mail to create, send, respond, use attachments
  • Ability to use presentation graphics such as PowerPoint to create slides, displays
  • Ability to create multimedia presentations
  • Ability to use word processing
  • Ability to navigate systems such as Blackboard and the Internet
  • Ability to navigate a Windows or MAC operating system to manipulate files using file manager, determine active printer, access installed applications, create and delete directories and files.
  • Self Assessment Computer Skills Survey from ASU’s E-Learning Center:

According to Angelo State University’s Distance Education website, the following technology requirements have been identified for online students:

  • Computer with Mac OSX 10.2 or later  or Windows XP or later
  • Microsoft Office Word and PowerPoint (97-2003 or 2007)
  • High Speed Internet connection
  • Explorer7 or later or Firefox 3.0 or later (Mac users must have Safari 3 or later or Firefox 3.0 or later)
  • Instructors may also provide content and activities that require other software and equipment such as PowerPoint, Excel, Acrobat PDF or  a webcam
  • Blackboard Web Supported Browser

It is important to include these requirements in your syllabus or in an overview document of your online course. Doing so can prevent you from having to provide technical support to a student over a given weekend or help you pinpoint the origin of a technical problem (e.g. Is the problem my Panopto video or does the student not have high speed Internet?).

Blackboard offers tutorials to help the student become familiar with all of the tools and features of Blackboard. From the Blackboard log on screen, students can select the Support tab to access these tutorials.

Suggested Resources to provide to online Students

Section One

  1. Working Definition of E-Learning
  2. Effective Online Pedagogy
  3. Theories of Learning and the Online Environment
  4. Preparing to Teach Online
  5. Online Learner Characteristics
  6. Online Teaching Competencies
  7. Online Teaching Strategies and the Role of the Online Teacher
  8. Workload and Time Considerations