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Characteristics of the Successful Online Student, Parents and Family (Eva Goldstein-Meola, M. Ed)

(Consider these important points about virtual learning, to make sure your family/child is a “good match” for this type of learning environment.)

Online courses offer students opportunities to learn in new ways and make learning available to many who cannot attend a traditional class. However, online courses are not for everyone – just as not every student is successful within a traditional classroom setting. Many students and parents say that online classes require more discipline and commitment.  Please do not enroll your child in this class “to make your life easier”, especially if you are hesitant as to whether it is a good fit or not.

If you are local to Northern Virginia, I find that students excel in virtual classes AFTER taking my live class for a year.  They already come into the virtual enviroment with an understanding for both my teaching methods AND my personality.  If you are a distance learner, then virtual is the only option you can choose from.  That said, if distance-learning students have some prior IEW experience, I find that it will benefit them.   The following is a list of general guidelines that will help you analyze if your child will be a  successful online student.

All potential online students should possess (to some extent) the following skills and qualities:

  • Be able to type/keyboard.


In a virtual classroom, all of the student’s communication is written, so it is critical that the students feel comfortable expressing themselves in writing. Obviously, your child is being enrolled in a writing class to improve their writing.  When I say, “Communicate through writing” I truly mean to know how to type on a keyboard.  We do not worry about spelling, capitalization or sentence structure when we communicate via the “chat log” during class, as the chat log is fast paced.   What this means is that they are able to TYPE. The students just need to feel comfortable about providing answers to questions asked, and to ask questions when in need of additional help.     

  • Be patient.

I promise I will answer all questions; however, when teaching virtually, students need to “raise their hand” (via typing in a “question mark” – ?) and then wait until I can break from my thought and recognize their request.  I will call on students; however, I do ask them to wait until I break – typically every four to five minutes.  With experience, I have found that if students are patient, they will find that I answer many of their questions before calling on them.  To help students “remember” their question – I strongly encourage that they write it on a scratchpad next to them, and keep that handy for when I do call on them.

  • Be self-motivated and self-disciplined. 


With the freedom and flexibility of the online classroom environment comes responsibility. The online process takes additional levels of both commitment and discipline to keep up with the flow of the process.  All students are expected to ONLY be on the “classroom page.”  They should not be on Skype, Twitter,  or any other social media while in the class.   They should not be holding private “chats” with friends.   It is expected that they are present in the classroom and participating for the ultimate experience.

If you have a student who will be watching recorded sessions regularly (instead of attending “live”) your child will have to be self-motivated and self-disciplined enough to:

    • Watch the recorded version
    • Email me any questions they might have
    • Jump directly into the assignment
  • Be able to sit and focus on their screen for a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 90 minutes per class.  

I have found that the maximum timespan for a student to focus can vary in online classes; it is based on the specific lesson, questions asked, clarifications needed, and level of each individual child.  I strongly encourage parents of younger students to join as many virtual classes as you can.  Students might need help.   Students might need encouragement.  Students might need initial assistance.   First-time students will end up being independent quickly, and feel more comfortable, if their parents take the initial time needed to walk them through a few classes.

  • Be willing to “speak up” if problems arise. 


When you experience difficulty on any level (either with technology or course content), you must communicate this immediately.  Otherwise the instructor will never know what is wrong.  

PLEASE NOTE – I cannot fix computer or Internet issues your student might be having, at the moment you are having them, since I am leading the class.  However, I can offer suggestions before (and after) class to help resolve the issue.  Additionally, if my Internet connection is impacted to a point where I lost audio, visual, or both –  I will immediately let the students know via the chat log.  Students need to be patient and wait it out.   It does not happen often, and in most cases it takes less than a minute or two to resolve; however, I do know that a minute can seem like an eternity online.  Patience is key!

  • Be willing and able to commit to 2 to 5 hours per week per course.  See below for approximate for each class.  Please take into consideration YOUR child’s pace.  Some students need more time and some students are quicker. NOTE: This doesn’t include “class time” or “watching recording time”. 
  • Be able to meet the minimum requirements for the course. 


It is expected that all students email the instructor the paper prior to the next class.  This provides the student with two weeks to go through the entire writing process, from brainstorming through final draft.  All papers in virtual classes are evaluated.  The student does not receive a grade; however, they do receive elaborate feedback on what they were successful with and what they need help with.   Feedback is based on number of years with the instructor for writing AS WELL AS level the student is currently working on.  Of course, there might be a time where the student needs an extension, which is the parent’s decision.   That said, do your best not to fall too far behind!

  • Have access to a computer (and hi-speed Internet connectivity)  


All students must have access to a computer, and be able to connect to the class session either via a wired (preferred) or wireless Wi-Fi connection.  Speakers or headphones are also required. They do NOT need a webcam or a microphone. 

  •  Be able to understand how we communicate in the classroom.

Students are able to HEAR ME during classroom sessions.  Typically, my webcam is switched OFF so the students don’t see me.  (but sometimes I turn it on, either to just say hello or to help clarify a particular point).   However, the classroom has a PowerPoint presentation running at all times, whiteboards for sharing examples, and a chat log to respond to my questions as well as to ask questions.

  • Be willing to keep a notebook as their reference guide.

Parents MUST print out papers that are emailed to the family PRIOR to class.   Students MUST have these papers in front of them during class.  Together, after class, students and parents MUST file these in their notebook under the correct section.  (Specific details are given prior to the first class in detail.)  Students are expected to keep a notebook to be used as a reference guide.

  • Parents need to provide the student with a quiet place for their “virtual” class.

A quiet, clean environment, free from distractions, is needed during the “live” virtual class.

  • Finally, parents must be willing to assist their child.

Parents need to be more active in their child’s learning within a virtual class.  It is crucial that you check in with them, make sure they understand the assignment, assist them if needed, keep them on pace and be aware of the requirements.   This is crucial with the “younger” students or the “new to virtual learning” students.  As children become used to this process, they will be able to be more and more independent; it just takes time to get there.

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