Distance learning isn’t for everyone. Before signing up for distance learning courses, consider whether they are appropriate for you. Think about the following questions.
Do you have access to a working computer, modem, and the Internet?
Your connection to this class will be the Internet. You should have reliable Internet service on a computer that is conveniently accessible to you several times a week.
Do you have adequate computer skills?
Can you create, save, and manage files on your computer? Do you know how to install software on your computer if you need to? Do you currently have an e-mail address? Do you know how to send and receive e-mail attachments? Do you know how to “paste” text from a word processor into an e-mail address?
Are you self-motivated and self-disciplined?
While distance learning courses offer a suggested calendar for moving through the material, one of the great advantages of distance learning is being able to set your own schedule. The online course requires that you be responsible and committed to keeping up with the class materials and completing the assignments on time. Can you prioritize your own workload? Are you good at assessing your own progress?
Are you willing to speak up when problems arise or when you have questions?
Distance learning eliminates body language and non-verbal communication. The instructors cannot tell if you are having problems with the course or the technology unless you tell them. Are you willing to initiate emails or phone calls to instructors for assistance?
Can you communicate effectively through writing?
The vast majority of communication for distance learning classes will be through writing. You should be able to follow complex written instructions and learn through reading materials.
Are you willing and able to commit adequate time to this course?
Online courses are not easier than traditional classroom instruction. Often they require more time because of supporting reading materials and exercises.
Do you feel that high quality learning can take place without going to a traditional classroom?
Most of your learning experience has been in traditional classroom settings, with instructors and students who can provide interaction and instant feedback. Distance learning courses have opportunities to interact with instructors and students, but most of the time, you will be working with the material on your own. Some students are uncomfortable with working independently or not being part of a class.
Will you be able to meet the minimum requirements of the class?
The requirements for a distance learning class are no less than traditional classroom instruction. There will be assignments to complete and there may be a requirement that students participate in class discussions via a chat room or a listserv.