Four Ways to Turn a Student Into a Leader in an Online Environment

As education focuses on College & Career Readiness standards in the 21st century, schools are increasingly responsible for developing students in areas outside of academics. Students are expected to learn soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and flexibility that could be applied in a corporate setting.

One area of development that colleges and employers are seeking is leadership. Leadership is an excellent quality that is highly sought after, and should be developed and cultivated as early as possible.

Turn a Student into a Leader
Student learning. Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Here are four common traits among leaders that are encouraged in an online environment:

Leaders Have a Strong Sense of Self-Efficacy

  • One of the great things about online learning is the development of an independent spirit. When working on assignments and through courses, students must be intrinsically motivated to be successful. Students must want achievement for themselves in order to experience it.
  • Not all students come to online school ready with these skills. In fact, most don’t. It’s the job of a good teacher to teach self-efficacy. The best way to accomplish this is through teaching various strategies that build capacity in our students. Empowering students to learn how to search for answers instead of providing them quickly or learning to categorize data instead of just listing it are two examples. Teaching students how to learn, not just what they need to know is the key to increasing self-efficacy.

Leaders Should Be “Intellectually Versatile”

  • In a 2017 Forbes article, intellectual versatility was listed as one of “Seven of the Top Leadership Skills for 2020.” Simply put, “Leaders who can draw from a broad range of knowledge are better equipped to anticipate and lead change.”
  • In an online environment, students are learning the same standards based content as their brick and mortar peers, but with an added layer of technology. Intellectual curiosity is fostered through project based learning-encouraging students to show mastery of content through various means of assessment.
  • Additionally, students in an online environment have flexibility to pursue outside interests. Free from the pressures of a bell schedule and after school homework, students who learn online can get their work done in the same (or sometimes less) time as their brick and mortar peers. This leaves time to pursue entrepreneurial interests, volunteer work, additional studies at the local college, or independently pursuing other intellectual pursuits.

Leaders Influence Others to Participate

Online school doesn’t mean that there’s no interaction with your peers. On the contrary, students online are engaging with their peers through various media, including IM, text, email, online classroom, and video chat.

Our online charter schools encourage leadership through clubs. Student leaders gain experience in recruitment (clubs must have a minimum of 5 students to meet) and organization (meetings are student led). Students keep meeting agendas, presentations, and host events to bring awareness to a cause or support the club’s shared interests. Students have an opportunity to act as President, Vice President, Secretary, etc. learning the hierarchy of leadership but simultaneously working together towards a common goal.

Leaders Must Be Collaborative

  • Though students in an online environment have plenty of opportunities to work independently, there are some great opportunities for collaboration as well. In the online classroom, students can use the chat feature to dialogue in class, commenting on the lecture, or interacting as appropriate. They can use whiteboard tools to take control of the board (just like writing on the board in class). Teachers can even put the students in smaller breakout rooms to facilitate small group conversations about literature, historical figures, math problems, or anything really. The sky is the limit!

CalPac is a free 6-12th grade online charter school that can help cultivate leadership in your student. To find out more, visit our website at

Anne Lawson is a British writer who keeps her eye on business and trending issues that affect us all. She loves to delve into the real story and give us interesting tidbits we might otherwise miss.