Mel Wilson sitting a a desk working on her laptop.

The Choice to Learn Online


What You Should Know Before Becoming an Online Student

Becoming an online student is a choice. What should students know before making the decision to study online? We consulted with a couple of our WVU Online advisors to find out.

According to Damia Dobbs, a developmental advising specialist with the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, one of the biggest questions an advisor will ask you is about your intended major. “Do you have a specific major you are interested in? What are your plans after graduation?” The answers to these questions help your advisor decide which program may be more suited to your goals for the future.

“It is very important for the student to declare a major and also to know that not all majors are available online,” Dobbs says.

Working with an academic advisor early in the process has some definite advantages. Susan Maczko, the program coordinator with the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, says an academic advisor is an advocate and a reliable contact for students.

“Advisors know what classes are needed and the order in which students should take them,” she says. “They help students navigate the system.”

Maczko recommends students contact their advisor as often as necessary, but at least once a semester. It is not uncommon for students to reach out to their advisors multiple times a semester.

“Online students need an advisor who is available when needed. Navigating the enrollment process, connecting with other departments – such as financial aid, student accounts, tutoring, and others – while juggling the responsibilities of work, school and family can prove challenging. ”

Advisors are a great resource as students work through various issues. Having a good advisor definitely affects their ability to get the most out of their intended program of study.

Success as an Online Student

So, what does it take to be a successful online student?

Dobbs says online students need to be good time managers, motivated to learn, patient, organized and goal-oriented. Maczko also says online learners need to be good time managers, as well as self-motivators and self-advocates.

Keep in mind that your online academic journey will involve a lot of remote communication. Both Maczko and Dobbs say it is important to communicate with your professors. Keeping an open line of communication will not only help if you have an issue, but your professors can provide letters of recommendation when you need them. Students who actively cultivate a relationship with their professors will receive much better recommendations and will benefit in many other ways as well.