5 Important Skills For Online Students To Master

Online students experience many benefits that their in-person counterparts don’t have the option for. From flexible schedules to focusing on just a few courses at a time, online students have the chance to tailor their academic lives to match their personal lives. In order to reap the benefits of online learning, students also need to master a few essential skills. Not only will these skills help your academic life as an online student, but they will transfer over into whatever you do after high school as well.

Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation

Being able to buckle down and work regardless of the potential distractions around you is an essential skill as an online student. The good news is that you aren’t going to deal with the distractions of disruptive peers like in a brick-and-mortar school. However, if you’re at home, you’ve got to guard against the temptations of social media, a game console, or a million other potential contenders for your attention. If you’re traveling, there’s the fun of visiting friends and family fighting for your attention. Being able to discipline yourself to get your work done takes self-motivation that students in an in-person classroom don’t always need to have. They have a teacher or teacher’s aides walking around the room constantly reminding students to focus on the task at hand. When you’re an online student, you’re responsible for making sure you’re focused, no one else.

Application for Life: In college or work after high school, you’re responsible for making sure your needs are met and your responsibilities are taken care of. Even if you have the support of your family and friends, in the end, you are the person responsible for making sure you get the tasks done for yourself that need to be done. Whether it’s a big paper or project or a schedule change at work that messes with your sleep patterns, you’re going to need both self-discipline and motivation to navigate life as an adult.

Time-Management Skills

Usually, online students don’t have someone timing them and ringing a bell when it’s time to move on to the next subject area. You don’t usually have anyone micro-managing how you use every minute of your day. A typical online student navigates the use of their time themselves. Sure, your family probably checks in on your progress, but whether you spend three or seven hours working on school each day is most likely up to you. Whether or not you make the most of your time depends on your choices for time-management. 

Application for Life: Making mistakes about how you manage your time or learning to perfect your time-management skills will both help you better navigate life after high school. In post-secondary study, your instructors are not required to remind you of deadlines. Your bosses aren’t going to send you a reminder text to show up for work. You have to manage your time yourself, so being able to practice this skill in the safe conditions of your online academic career is a great opportunity that will get you ready for life after high school.

Self-Advocacy Skills

Knowing when you need to ask for help is an important skill that some adults even struggle with. However, being an online student, you already have experience with this. You have to be able to reach out to your instructor when you need help because you aren’t sitting in a classroom every day staring at each other. It can be easy to just move on and hope for the best, but as an online student, you know that your best option is to reach out for help after you’ve determined you can’t problem-solve the issue on your own.

Application for Life: Many young people don’t learn how to advocate for themselves and end up with a mindset that if they don’t ask for help, their struggle is everyone else’s fault. Online students avoid this trap. That means that when an online student is in college, they already know how to reach out to their instructors for help, and when they’re working, they know that it’s okay to ask for clarification about procedures. Self-advocacy is a skill that will help you throughout your life.

Appropriate Digital Communication

When you want to reach out for help as an online student, you often have to send a message or email. Understanding what appropriate digital communication looks like is an essential skill for any student. Online students get to practice appropriate digital communication so that they know what works best when working digitally. Whether it’s from making mistakes or recognizing what works best versus what doesn’t work, online students need to learn how to politely and professionally use written digital communication to interact with their instructors.

Application for Life: Moving forward into post-secondary education, most of your communication with your instructors will be digital. Sure, you can meet with them during office hours, but you’ll have to arrange for that somehow. And usually, that’s done online through a calendar or email. Knowing how to use appropriate digital communication, and not just sending a blank message with the subject line “I need help” is an essential skill in high school and beyond. Practicing appropriate greetings and polite written communication will help you stand out amongst your peers.


This quality is related to many others. Being independent will help you manage your online academic life because you’ll be able to think for yourself and consider how to problem-solve on your own. Whether you’re wanting to change your schedule a bit for the week or find additional resources about a topic you’re not quite understanding, being independent will go a long way in helping you navigate online school. 

Application for Life: After high school, whether you are living at home for a bit or living in a dorm, you’re going to experience more independence than you had in high school. Being able to make some healthy decisions for yourself and a chance to practice figuring out how to solve your own problems will move you far beyond your peers. Even though it’s good to know when to reach out for help, being able to do an initial assessment of a given situation and determine what you can do independently to help yourself is an essential skill for modern adult life.

About Excel High School

Excel High School is an accredited online school that offers many different academic program options for students grade 6 through graduation. Our fully online, self-paced programs fit around your family’s schedule, and our support team is here to help you along the way. If you’re not already a student with Excel High School but would like to learn more, feel free to check out our programs on our website. Still got questions? Feel free to reach out to us by text at 952-465-3700 or call us at 800-620-3844. Our staff will be happy to answer any questions you have and guide you to the best program for your individual needs.

Ready to start your journey with Excel High School?

It's simple. Just click the button below and we will help you begin!