Online learning is different in many respects from the traditional face-to-face learning we're all used to, primarily in the way we get our information and how we interact with instructors and classmates. Many people say they learn more online, and their retention is better too.
Consider that good students in the traditional setting may fair poorly in an online environment, while struggling students may excel with online courses. This can be explained in part due to differences in learning styles. Visual, self-directed learners do well at online learning, but others succeed because online instructional design is often sophisticated and planned to reach a wide variety of learners.
Lifestyles play a big role in the success of online learners too. These are the traits that successful online students possess, to varying degrees:
- Comfortable with computers
- Able to use email, internet browser, word processor
- Like to read and write
- Able to stay on task
These questions may help you decide if online learning is for you:
Are you self-directed and motivated?
Most of online learning happens on your schedule. You'll need to be self-directed and motivated to complete activities on schedule and initiate the communication required to be successful. You'll be responsible for creating the structure to finish each course.
Are your technical skills adequate?
Along with having access to a computer and not being overwhelmed by typing, online learners should be comfortable with internet browsing and searching, email, sending and reading attachments, word processing, and sometimes downloading and installing software plug-ins (a normally simple but sometimes intimidating task).
Do you have strong reading skills?
Reading can play a large part in any class, and especially online. The ability to read and comprehend subject matter without it being a chore is critical to your success.
Does written communication come easily for you?
In most cases writing is the primary method of communication in online classes, so you should be at ease with writing to express your thoughts, share ideas, and ask questions.
Will you ask questions when you need to?
If you typically don't hesitate to seek help when you need it you'll do fine. Since you'll be in an online environment it's important to let your instructor and classmates know when you need help. Remember that they won't be able to see your looks of doubt, confusion, or other body language to tell when things aren't going well.
Will you miss the social interaction?
Interaction with instructors and classmates in online learning is often an integral part of the learning experience. Absent is the in-person contact - being able to see facial expressions, hear reactions, and speak. Campus life may be different or non-existent too.
Do you have the discipline to study regularly?
Like a traditional school you'll need to set aside adequate time for study. You may discover that you need to be online frequently to complete assignments or communicate with classmates and instructors. You can plan to spend at least as much time working assignments and studying as you would with a traditional course, and you'll be setting your own pace in many instances.
If you're satisfied with your answers to these questions, you're likely to do well in an online learning course. The links below are furnished as additional resources to help you decide.