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How to Stand Out Favorably in Your Online Class and Career

Posted on Friday November 30, 2012 by Michael Keathley


Online students often feel a sense of disconnect from interaction with others, including their professors. The very nature of working alone from a home computer can easily make students feel isolated. Additionally, there are some virtual students who have been out of school for a while or who, perhaps, had less than stellar performances during their K-12 years. These learners may simply not know how to go about being an outstanding student, the kind who stands out favorably, even in an online class.

To make matters worse, elearners may want to get noticed by faculty so that they can take full advantage of the opportunity to learn or impress their instructors in the hope of getting a letter of recommendation for a scholarship or job. Most students understand that doing well in college can lead to gainful employment after graduation.

If any of this describes you, here are some tips to help you to stand out favorably in your online class for greater academic and future career success.

What to Do
There are strong parallels between academic expectations in the online environment and those that employers will have when you start your career. Striving to be an outstanding elearner will have the added bonus of giving you practice at being an outstanding employee.

Dr. Randall S. Hansen and Dr. Katherine Hansen of Quintessential Careers collated the “Skills Most Sought After by Employers” from a variety of surveys. Here are the results in a condensed format and how each will help you stand out favorably in your online class and beyond as you seek gainful employment.

    1. “Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written). By far, the one skill mentioned most often by employers is the ability to listen, write, and speak effectively. Successful communication is critical in business.”

    In an online class, good communication skills are essential to success, too. I would also add reading to this as you will need to demonstrate to your professor that you can listen to and read directions, for instance, and then follow them. Most, if not all, of your communication will be written, so be sure to revise and edit all messages and assignments before sending or posting them. See my post, “4 Tips for Writing Effective Discussion Posts,” for some tips on good communication (4 November, 2012).

    2. “Analytical/Research Skills. [These skills deal] with your ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed.”

    Those research projects assigned in class are more than just busywork. Demonstrate to your professor that you can use invention strategies and primary research to critically think and analyze a topic before utilizing electronic resources to support your conclusions in a paper or class presentation. Professors want to see students develop into independent learners who will contribute to their career fields in the future.

    3. “Computer/Technical Literacy. Almost all jobs now require some basic understanding of computer hardware and software, especially word processing, spreadsheets, and email.”

    This is one of the most valuable skills an online class will foster in students. Let your instructor see you learning to use technology, but go beyond the examples here. Consider learning at least one new piece of technology (e.g., video capture or LiveBinders ) in each class, and let your professor know you are doing so. Moreover, as Dan Schwabel explained in Forbes, employers will look at your online presence. Use social media opportunities (e.g., Facebook) to connect with your professor beyond the course site.

    4. “Flexibility/Adaptability/Managing Multiple Priorities. [These skills involve] your ability to manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and work assignments.”

    Show your professor you can handle multiple duties and responsibilities well, even when there are several activities to be completed in a unit or a project (e.g., a research paper) meets with unexpected challenges. This is also an area in which you can demonstrate good technical skills (e.g., by organizing your work with Google calendar).

    5. “Interpersonal Abilities. The ability to relate to your co-workers, inspire others to participate, and mitigate conflict with co-workers is essential given the amount of time spent at work each day.”

    Show your professor that you can be appropriately personable, making classmates feel comfortable, supported, and even inspired by you in your interactions with them. If conflict happens to arise, show that you can be the better person and reach out to resolve the issue. This includes those from other backgrounds who may hold different beliefs than your own. Demonstrate you can be part of a team during class activities, especially collaborative projects.

    6. “Leadership/Management Skills. While there is some debate about whether leadership is something people are born with, these skills deal with your ability to take charge and manage your co-workers.”

    Strive to be a leader in the online class, but do so by your example rather than by trying to dominate others. One example of how you can do this in an online class while impressing your professor is to complete your initial response to a discussion activity as early as possible in the week, taking care to respond to all directions and to proofread the post carefully before submitting it.

    7. “Personal Values Employers Seek in Employees. Of equal importance to skills are the values, personality traits, and personal characteristics that employers seek. Look for ways to weave examples of these characteristics into your resume, cover letters, and answers to interview questions.”

    Similarly, instructors want to see that students are engaged, caring, and conscientious about their education and the daily steps needed to earn a degree. Be prepared, follow directions, ask questions, contribute not just participate in the course, be proactive, and complete all work as required. Show you have a strong sense of ethics and that you want to do well in the class and beyond.

Overall, see your online class as an opportunity not only to do well academically, but also as a chance to practice and perfect your career skills, too.

What Will You Do?
My hope is that you will choose to follow the suggestions given in this post so that you may stand out favorably not only in your online class, but also in your future career.

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