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What Makes a Gold-Star Online Student?

For more than a decade, I’ve been teaching high school in the online environment. I’ve learned quite a bit in that time, including identifying the characteristics associated with successful students.

As an online teacher, it’s important for me to make connections with my students. But, those connections are a two-way street, and the computer screen is my blind spot. When I see students actively interacting with me, I know they are engaged. I can assess their level of understanding or help them if they need it.

When it comes to online learning, I have identified a few gold-star student behaviors. If you, the parent, guardian, or student coach, can guide your online student toward making these behaviors routine, you will be setting them up for success for years to come.



As an online educator, I’m always checking my email. I am thrilled when a student sends a message to introduce herself.  A short, simple introduction is a great way for a student to open the lines of communication with me. It lets me know a little bit about the student and helps me to see her as an individual.


Respond to My Emails

As I said, I’m always checking my emails, and part of that activity includes checking for student responses. Each week, I send emails to my students. I welcome them to class, ask if they need help, or suggest a particular learning approach. I appreciate when a student responds to my message. It shows me that they are actively participating and paying attention to my questions. It is also nice to know that my emails are received and read.


Original Work

Submitting original work is just as important in an online class as it is in a brick-and-mortar setting. All students are asked to complete the same assignments, and I thoroughly enjoy reading unique, individual responses to those assignments. Remind your student that copying and pasting from Wikipeida or any other external site is plagiarism. When I see online ads in the middle of a student document, or if I need to consult the dictionary to read student work, it’s a dead giveaway the work is not original.


Read Directions

Reading is an enormous part of online education. In a self-paced course, sometimes the words on the page are the only means of communication teachers have when giving assignments. It is extremely important that a student reads the assignment directions and follows them.

Online students have the flexibility to read the directions multiple times, if necessary, so I encourage them to take advantage of that opportunity. Evaluating an assignment is much easier for me when a student follows directions.  It allows me to focus purely on the quality of the work rather than on missing content.


Advocate for Yourself 

I always appreciate it when students email me directly. If they don’t understand a concept, I am here to help. Unlike a traditional face-to-face classroom, I can’t see the confusion on a student’s face, and without an email, I don’t know if the student is struggling.

Please encourage your student to speak up. I am always grateful to see that students are learning and using their own voice to advocate for themselves.  I also appreciate when I hear from the student himself, rather than the parent.  School is the perfect opportunity for students to become independent and self-sufficient. Both of these characteristics will benefit the student for a lifetime.


Use Standard English

I appreciate assignments and emails written in standard English. Thoughts and ideas are conveyed much more clearly this way.  I also have difficulty translating the emails written in texting language.  In addition, standard English is expected in a professional environment, so it’s best to start the habit of using proper grammar and punctuation now. 


Office Hours

As an online teacher, it is important that I make myself available to students who need extra support. One way I do this is through holding office hours each week.  It’s great when a student attends my office hours to clarify instructions or to ask questions about a concept.

During office hours, the student can choose to turn on their microphone and talk or simply ask his questions via the chat box.  The conversation or chat generally is more productive when a student is prepared with detailed, specific questions. 

For example, “I don’t understand,” is challenging to address. On the other hand, a prepared question, such as the next example, allows me to immediately work with the student to help him understand the concept.

“The distribution property is confusing to me.  I’ve read through the lesson and attempted problems 1-10 on page 224.  On problem #5, this <student shows details> is what I did, and this is where I am stuck <student shows additional details>."


Ask Questions

As a teacher, I want my students to learn. I want them to be successful. I want them to know that I am here to help. When a student asks questions, it shows that he is truly attempting to learn the material, and nothing makes me happier.

This list represents some of my favorite student practices in the online learning environment, but I know there are other gold-star student actions.  What behaviors do you like to see from your students?


Jodie Banyas has taught high school business and math courses with Lincoln Learning Solutions for 10 years and has previous experience with IBM Finance. Jodie enjoys spending her free time with her family, traveling, reading, and walking her dog.

Topics: online learning, education, student achievement, teaching

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