Take Charge and Become a Leader in an Online College

You probably know someone who loved being the ‘teacher’s pet’ – they sat in the front row, always raised their hand and were the first to volunteer to help the teacher or class. Whether beloved or despised, these types of students get noticed. They’re showing interest, and they’re often successful because of their high level of classroom engagement.

When taking classes online, you can’t sit in the front of the room, but there are similar ways to make yourself standout.


Most online classes have a discussion forum for students to post ideas and respond to each other. This is the perfect opportunity to show your instructor and class you care. Don’t post just anything, though. Like social media, think before you post, and do your research.

“Find something relative to the discussion, like an article or website and integrate that into your discussion post,” said Lynne Croteau, Rasmussen College Online Dean. “Don’t just post on Monday or Tuesday and call it good. Check back throughout the week and respond to your classmates. Your instructor will notice this.”

Online students say it’s important to familiarize yourself with your school’s website, discussion forums and live chat opportunities ahead of time, so you can make intelligent and timely contributions.

“My advice is to take the work seriously,” said Norah Jacobs-Smith, Rasmussen College AcceleratED student. “You need to understand the workload. Familiarize yourself with the website and the support systems that are available to you.”

Ask Questions

Instructors are not mind readers, and in an online class they don’t have the luxury of reading your confused or concerned facial expression. If you have a question, ask. Send your instructor an e-mail or give them a call. You can also save those questions for live online lectures, just make sure you write them down. There’s probably someone else with the same question who is too shy to ask.

“I hear all the time from students that they feel like they’re teaching themselves when they take an online course,” said Croteau. “In any situation, learning takes effort. If a student did not understand something in a traditional classroom setting, they would speak up in the class or ask the instructor questions after class. It is no different online. Students need to communicate with their instructors and reach out for help.”

Turn in Assignments on Time

It may seem obvious, but like any class it’s important to turn your work in on time. In an online class, instructors will know down to the second when you turn in your assignments. Are you waiting until the last minute? Sometimes that’s going to happen, but are you doing it all the time? You don’t want your instructor to think of you as ‘the student who always turns in assignments late.’

“Balancing your time is difficult,” said Heather Anderson, Rasmussen College AcceleratED student. “I have found that scheduling time blocks on my calendar is very useful. Set aside an hour or two to complete an assignment, and take it one assignment at a time. Do this, and you will be successful.”

Offer to Help

An online leader will be the first to jump in and help. Reach out to your classmates who appear to be struggling by e-mail or simply ask, “Does anyone need help?”

“This is the perfect opportunity to make yourself standout,” said Croteau. “Offer to tutor a classmate, and you will automatically become the go-to person in your online class.”

Stay Positive

College is tough, and it’s supposed to be. It’s easy to become frustrated when you don’t get the grade you were expecting. Instead of complaining about your class or instructor with your classmates, why not take a more positive approach?

“In an online setting, it’s easy to vent about an instructor or class through e-mail,” said Croteau. “A leader will turn it around and say ‘hey guys, we’re learning something’ or ask ‘how can we help each other succeed?’ You don’t want to be the person that complains all the time.”

Upload a Picture

Most online schools have student profiles where students can upload their picture. Do this. It puts a face to your name. Your classmates and instructor will have a better idea who they’re communicating with. Also, make sure your contact information is up-to-date, so your classmates and instructor can easily reach you. 

We hope these tips will help you take charge and become a leader in your next online class. How do you make yourself standout? Please share what’s worked for you in our comments section below or on our Facebook page.

About the author

Molly Andersen

Director of Public Relations

Molly is a Director of Public Relations at American Public Education, Inc., where she works on public relations and communications on behalf of Rasmussen University. A passionate storyteller, Molly believes everyone has a story to tell. She feels privileged to share the inspiring stories and wisdom of Rasmussen’s students, alumni, faculty and staff, and show others the transformative power of education.

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