APU Careers & Learning Editor's Pick Online Learning

Goal Tracking for Academic Success in the Online Environment

goal-tracking-schoolBy Allyson Donohue & Stephanie Kennedy
Assessment Specialists, Academic Advising at American Public University

We have all heard how important planning and tracking our progress is to reach our goals, but this can be especially important in an online environment. How do some students reach their goals more efficiently, or seem to have it “easier” than others? Many students focus on goal planning and track their progress throughout their online program, and this includes creating and achieving short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals can include getting at least a ‘B’ in your next two classes, while a long-term goal could be graduating with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Short-term goals can be created and crossed off a list as they are completed, while long-term goals can be revisited at specified time intervals.

Some critical steps to remember when making goals and tracking your academic success include:

  • Analyze your strengths. Goals that are made while focusing on your strengths will be easier and more enjoyable to obtain. For example, adding a certificate to your program in a subject area you enjoy will help complete your elective credits in lieu of taking random classes from a variety of unrelated degree subjects.
  • Set small and realistic goals. Setting small goals along the way to achieving your ultimate goal will help you stay focused and motivated.
  • Monitor your progress. Create a helpful spreadsheet, check your grades within your online classroom, and keep track of your GPA. These are just some of the ways you can monitor your progress in your classes and program. Use the tools you find most useful when tracking your progress!
  • Self-reflection. Take time to self-reflect throughout your academic experience. This is an important step both before and after setting goals for yourself, as self-reflection will help you to create attainable goals, efficiently work towards those goals, and evaluate your success after completing the goals. Make time throughout your program to reflect on your past successes and challenges, and determine how to best move forward.
  • Seek help when needed. Use all the resources available to you, including your instructors and academic advisor. Contact your instructor if you have any concerns about your progress in the course or are seeking feedback. Your advisor can assist with goal-planning, policy and procedure questions, and course selection. Other resources include ClearPath, the online library, and tutoring services.

Having good time management skills and tracking participation within the classroom can help ensure overall success in each course. For example, you could set a goal of logging into your online classroom at least once every-other day to catch up on new forum postings, check for messages from your instructor, and review the current and upcoming assignments. Being more engaged in the classroom this way can keep the momentum that most students feel the first week of the course going until the last week. Also, creating an assignment schedule for each course showing when and what is due can help ensure your assignments are not left until the last minute or forgotten all together.

Tracking your success is an important part of your academic experience, as it helps you to define your goals and take the steps needed to obtain those goals. You can use the above guide to help start your goal making, and if you are interested in learning more about defining your personal goals and tracking your progress, make sure to contact your Academic Advising team!


Oregon State University (2016). Track Your Success. Academic Success Center http://success.oregonstate.edu/learning-corner/personal-success/track-your-success

About the Authors

Allyson Donohue has worked at APUS for almost nine years in different departments such as Advising and Graduations, and is currently an Advising Assessment Specialist. She has a Master’s in Business Administration and loves the statistics aspect of assessment!

Stephanie Kennedy has worked in the Academic Advising Department for six years, both as an Academic Advisor and an Assessment Specialist. She has a Masters of Arts in College Student Development and Administration and loves working in the higher education field.

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