Distance learning promises a lot (especially for a full-time teacher): learning on your own time, from your own home, at your own pace, even while holding down a full-time job… is it really that easy? It’s undoubtedly convenient, but you should wait a minute before calling it “easy.” Most distance education students will probably tell you that taking an online course is more demanding that taking one in-person.
Will you be able to organize your study time when you no longer have regularly scheduled class meetings? Can you stay on top of your work when you’re at home and faced with constant distractions? And what if you get stuck with a problem or question and there isn’t a teacher or tutor anywhere within fifty miles? It all comes down to how motivated and disciplined you can be.
Being a Successful Online Student
To be a successful online learner, you need to manage your time wisely. In a traditional course, you typically have weekly or daily meetings in which you can check your progress. But most online courses aren’t nearly as restrictive or, in some cases, as structured. For instance, you may still receive weekly assignments, but without regular classroom meetings, you’ll need to build your own study schedule — a schedule that involves planning around your existing workload (either at home or at work, if you have a full-time job — often both!).
Perhaps the most vital skill you’ll need is the ability to communicate effectively through writing; most of your teacher and classmate interaction will come via email, message board and newsgroup postings, or real-time online chats. You’ll also need to take the initiative and speak up (even if it’s via email) and ask for help when you need it. The only way your teacher will know if you’re having trouble is if you say so — so it’s key to get in touch as soon as you feel that you’re falling behind. Don’t get left behind! Lastly — but perhaps most importantly — you’ll need regular access to a computer with an Internet connection in order to devote yourself to your online studies.
Taking classes and earning a degree online can be phenomenally rewarding — offering a type of convenience that is impossible to find in a traditional/”real-world” classroom. But it’s also a great challenge. As long as you focus on your goals, stay dedicated to your studies, budget your time wisely, and speak up when you need help — you’ll accomplish your goals without a problem!