1. Solid Writing Ability: If you can't write well you can't communicate well, especially in the online world. Online, the number one method of communication is email and going to school online most forms of communication involve the written word. There is little opportunity (with current technology) to interact verbally with other students and professors. Aside from the occasional phone calls between interactive team members every communication is either by chat or email. Not to mention the prodigious number of research papers you are expected to produce, you should also be ready to learn new research methods. The use of uniform research formatting methods, such as APA, created by the American Psychological Association, and the institution of very strict plagiarism rules have made writing a research paper more arduous than in the past. For example, I found that many of the websites used for reference had plagiarized their content, leading to a plagiarism chain. The proliferation of plagiarisms has prompted many universities to institute online originality check engines to their sites, which can slow down your submissions while you wait to pass the check.
2. Working in Microsoft Office: A good working knowledge of MS Office will help you immeasurably. Knowing how to convert documents and link between the various programs will make your assignments (and your life) flow smoother. I found that the two most important operations for my business degree were, first, knowing how to connect Word documents with Excel (especially pasting Excel graphs into Word documents) and second, being familiar with basic business writing formats like memo writing and composing a business brief. To do this you should know how to access and use the Templates in MS Word. Just being knowledgeable in these two areas will save you a tremendous amount of time by not having to learn by trial and error, or forcing you to take extra computer classes.
3. Self Discipline: Can you accomplish goals without supervision? This is a required trait if you hope to succeed with your studies online. You'll be given a task list and the dates they are due, a lecture schedule and a text book. That's all you get; it is up to you to read the textbook, listen to the lectures and write the papers. There is no one there to hold your hand. You're 100% on your own. I'll tell you right now that when it's summertime and all your friends are going to the beach it's not easy to stay home to finish a research paper. If you have a laptop and a wireless card then you can (theoretically) go anywhere and work. But you should realize that too many distractions will affect your work and can eat a hole in your GPA pretty fast.
4. Time Management Skills: Being a good time manager may be the most important character trait to succeeding online. If you are ready to juggle work, family, friends and school in an organized way you may be able to go to the beach on a warm Saturday afternoon. It's a challenge. I m a good time manager so I managed to maintain a social life while I finished my degree (I even proposed to my g/f in the middle of going to school! (Yes, she said yes!). But there were times (especially when working with online group projects) that I had to forgo social engagements to finish assignments. You can minimize these social intrusions by being organized and working steadily on your projects. If you're a procrastinator, and like to wait till the last minute to do things you'll have a hard time keeping on schedule and maintaining a positive attitude. Remember, you're not going to a classroom and sitting for a lecture twice a week and then doing your homework! So you can spare those four hours to spend on your assignments! It's all about priorities; you want to have good grades RIGHT?
5. Strong Motivation: As I've mentioned already there's no one holding your hand to accomplish your goal. It's all up to you. Have a solid reason why you want to attain your degree and keep your eye on the ball. The major difference between going to a brick and mortar school and attending online classes is the need for serious motivation. You are no longer motivated by wanting to impress the cute chick in the second row or being the smartest guy in class (girls, you may insert peer pressure motivations of your own here) because only you know how your doing. If you can't feel motivated without external inputs then you might want to reconsider online learning. But if you want an economical way to get your degree, the opportunity is right here and right now!
Wayne Silverman holds a BS degree in marketing and lives in suburban Philadelphia with his fiance and a cat named Angela. He has been writing for the web for several years through different writer's sites. Currently he is employed by a nationwide franchise company working in a public relations capacity and is actively seeking to expand his writing business. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org