Today’s technology provides an alternative to traditional classroom time. Online learning allows students to take classes at their own pace and in their chosen environment. As long as you have a computer and an internet connection, you can participate in an online course.
However, before committing to a distance learning course, you should ask yourself: Is online learning the right choice for me?
Here are a few characteristics of those who benefit most from online learning:
- Comfortable with technology
- Have a reliable computer and internet connection
- Are self-motivated and are capable of working independently
- Use time management skills to plan ahead
- Don’t need face-to-face contact with teachers or fellow students
It’s important to realize the differences between a virtual learning environment and a typical classroom. A classroom offers immediate access to teachers in case of questions or clarification, as well as a specific structure since students must attend at a set time and place. The classroom environment can also connect students more easily to their colleagues, since they will see each other on a regular basis. This provides a good jumpoff point for networking or forming study groups.
Online classes are far more independent endeavors. Since these classes are often faster-paced than those on campus, you must be able to keep up with a demanding course of study. Those suited to solo work do well in online classes, since most of your interaction with teachers and classmates will be over the internet.
Your learning style will also dictate your success in a virtual classroom – if you learn through discussion and trading ideas, you may do better in an on-campus class. On the other hand, if you learn best through working on your own, distance education may be a good choice for you. Those who have good writing skills are likely to do well in an online environment, since the great majority of communication will be in written form. Finally, if you find it easier to express yourself through the written word than in speech, you may find that a virtual classroom will free you up to express your opinions and ideas.
Lifestyle factors also dictate whether online learning is your best option. For example, if you’re juggling work and family, you may appreciate the freedom and flexibility of a virtual class. You can study before work, at lunchtime, or after you put your children to bed. Those who live a mobile lifestyle will also enjoy being able to work from anywhere – a cafe, a library, or even an airport lounge.
Once you’ve decided online learning is for you, you’ll need to be able to carve out specific blocks of time to devote to your courses. It’s important to read all pertinent course material provided by your instructor, and to get comfortable with any online programs that will be used. Once the class begins, you’ll want to establish good communication with the instructor in case of any questions, and to ask for help if any problems arise. With good time management and prioritization, online learning will prove a positive experience.