Image of a young man studying on the ground.

“Studying” by Alex Indigo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Last month, I talked about the importance of adopting a growth mindset. Students with growth mindsets tend to get more from their educational experiences than students with fixed mindsets. Students with growth mindsets also tend to be more active learners, which is one of the reasons why they are successful.

When I was in high school (no, I’m not going to tell you when that was), people thought about education a lot differently than they do now. Most educational professionals still clung to the teacher-centered learning model. In that model, the teacher would speak, and the students would passively listen, hoping that something would stick. The type of education you received depended on the type of teachers you had.

Now, we know better. We know that people tend to learn more when they are actively involved in the educational process. Today, most educational programs are designed around the student, not the teacher. Learner-centered educational models provide students with more opportunities to interact with the material, their teachers, and their peers. The new system also favors students who take control of their own education.

So, how can you be a more active learner in your online class?

Ask Questions

If you’re confused or curious, ask questions. Most online classes contain some kind of general questions forum. Post your question there, or email your professor directly. You can also pose questions at the end of your discussion board posts. Don’t wait until you’re completely lost, though. Ask questions when they arise. If you do that, you’ll have a greater chance of acing the class!

Utilize Your School’s Learning Resources

A good student takes advantage of *all* the resources available to him or her. Most online universities offer their students a slew of free services – writing centers, learning centers, tutoring services, technological support. I work at one school that provides students with free Microsoft software. Another school allows students to download an advanced spellchecking program. Talk to your advisor about your school’s unique academic support services, and use all of them (if you can).

Adopt Active Reading and Study Strategies

If you want to learn more actively and efficiently, you have to read and study more actively and efficiently.

You can be a more active reader by:

*Previewing the text and generating questions before you do your reading.
*Attempting to answer questions while you read.
*Taking notes or making annotations while you read.
*Summarizing the content of what you’ve read.

You can prepare for tests and exams by:

*Starting early.
*Developing a detailed study schedule.
*Annotating your class notes.
*Using your notes to create charts, flashcards, and/or other visual learning aids.
*Reflecting on your progress after each study session.


You can learn a lot by talking about the course material with your classmates. So, post often on the class forums. Set up a virtual study group. Some schools even have online learning communities or other social media systems. Use these spaces to exchange ideas!

Getting an education is costly and time-consuming. Make sure you get everything you can from your educational experience. Be an active and engaged participant in your online classes, and take ownership of your academic journey!