Online Courses

Is Online Learning Right For You?

The online environment is not for everyone. Unfortunately, some people either have unrealistic expectations, or they think taking online classes is the “easy” route. Although you might not have to attend classes, you will still have to:

  • read your textbooks
  • write papers
  • engage in class discussions with classmates/professors
  • complete tests or other assessments
  • participate in group projects

In many ways, online college courses can be more difficult than their traditional counterparts. Before registering for an online course you should ask yourself and be able to answer yes to:

  • Are you comfortable using computers?
  • Do you have good time management skills?
  • Can you easily put your ideas in writing?
  • Is interacting with other students (in the traditional sense) important to you?
  • Are you a self-starter, and can you assert yourself to complete tasks?

Things to Consider

There are some basic things to consider regarding online classes.

Computers and Access Issues

  • Do you have daily access to a newer working computer with a reliable Internet connection (DSL or higher)? Access to your computer 24/7 is a MUST!

    You will need to know who your Internet carrier is and work with them on connectivity, hardware, and/or software issues.

  • Are you able to use email effortlessly?

  • Do you know how to work with attachments?

  • Can you perform basic searches/research online?

  • Do you have a designated space where you can study and take tests without interruptions?

  • You may need to submit assignments to a drop box and have discussion forums with classmates/professors.

Motivation and Time Management

  • Are you good at time management?

  • Are you a self-starter?

  • Are you good at planning?

  • Do you have self-discipline? Your professor will not be sending you daily emails telling you to complete your assignments and take your tests.

Interaction Style

Students are sometimes surprised they are expected to interact with other students in online classes. Some assume since online education is about individual learning, they will not be expected to communicate with other students in the course. The level of interaction between students will depend on the type of class and the instructor's preferences. You will need to refer to your syllabus to make sure you understand your instructor’s expectations.

  • Do you need face-to-face interaction with your professor to learn best? In an online class, you will interact with the professor and your classmates primarily via threaded discussions and email. If face-to-face contact is a must for you to thrive, then online classes might not be the best choice for you.

  • Do you need the routine of going to class to stay motivated?

Pre-Assessment Tool: Are You Ready To Take Online Courses?

The Test of Online Learning Success (TOOLS) survey, by the University of Houston, was designed to help students decide if they are ready to be successful in an online course.

Your scores are not reported to anyone, so it is in your best interest to be as honest as possible when you take this. The only purpose of this survey is to help you decide if online education is a good option for you.

You will be given scores in the following areas:

  • Computer Skills
  • Independent Learning
  • Dependent Learning
  • Academic Skills
  • Need for Online Delivery

What Does My Score Mean?

If your overall score is:

  • 190-201: You're ready to go!
    You are more prepared for online learning than 50-75 percent of your student peers.

  • 178-189: You're almost there!
    If you scored in this range you may experience a little difficulty with taking online courses. Look through the statements again and identify which areas you think you may need help. Are you a procrastinator? Do you need some help learning some time management skills? Do you need a little help overcoming some technical hurdles? With a little effort, you could be ready to go!

  • 0-177: Proceed with caution.
    If you scored in this range you may need to acquire some new skills before proceeding with online courses. You may need to increase your reading and writing skills, learn some time management skills, or take an introduction to computers course. Look over the statements again to identify the areas in which you need the most help and start there.

Additional Reading

Distance Learning

Dawn Fratzke
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