Choosing Distance Learning
Is Distance Learning Right for You?
Would you enjoy and benefit from the independence and flexibility that Distance Learning courses offer? These questions can help you decide what kind of course is best for you.
If you're motivated and organized, then an online course
may suit your lifestyle and study habits perfectly. Alternatively, you may also be interested in courses offered through teleconferencing, streaming videos or DVDs.
These questions should help you determine what Distance Learning delivery formats would best meet your needs.
Would you prefer a flexible coursework schedule?
If you work best at 5:00 a.m., then that's when your online class is in session. Online learning allows you to review course materials, complete assignments, and interact with classmates on your own schedule. In many instances, it also gives you more time to think before making your own contributions to the course. For example, you can log in to your course to read a discussion question. Then you can log in again in a few hours — or days — after you've had plenty of time to compose a response.
Distance Learning courses that are taught through video delivery allow you to review course materials and complete assignments on your own schedule. So, as with online courses, if you work best before breakfast, or in the middle of the night, then that's when your Distance Learning course can be in session.
Do you benefit from easily revisiting learning materials?
Online courses offer materials in many different formats, enabling students to view them more than once. You can re-read discussion board posts and e-mails at your own pace and as many times as you wish. In courses where lectures are delivered via streaming video or audio, you can also benefit from the ability to view or listen to the material multiple times at your convenience.
Video based courses also give you the chance to review the course materials as many times as you would like.
Is it difficult for you to come to class?
If so then online courses may be your answer — particularly if you're working full-time or taking other courses, have family responsibilities, or live far from campus.
Distance Learning courses taught via videoconferencing are also often a good solution for students who live far from the main university campuses, or who have other commitments such as family, work, or other courses. Without having to travel long distances you have the chance to communicate and participate in real time with other students in the course who might be attending from a remote site.
Would you prefer to communicate with classmates and faculty online?
Many students find it easier to participate online rather than in face-to-face classroom discussions. If you're working online, you have time to revise your contributions before hitting the "send" button. Plus, your classmates and teachers can't see you. If you're shy, or uncomfortable presenting before a group, you may be more relaxed in this setting.
Are you comfortable using a computer and the Internet?
When you take an online course, you need reliable access to a computer with an Internet connection. You'll be using your computer in several ways, which may include sending e-mail, navigating online to various websites, sending and receiving attachments, and posting to discussion boards.
Do you ask for help if you have trouble understanding a task?
With few or no face-to-face meetings, professors teaching online courses don't have as many opportunities to pick up on visual cues from their students. That means that if you look puzzled about an assignment or a lecture, only you might know. So when taking an online course it's all the more important to "speak up" and ask for help. E-mail is usually your best bet.
As in online courses, with limited or no face-to-face meetings, professors teaching courses via videos or CD-ROMs won't immediately realize it if you're confused about an assignment or a lecture. So when taking a course through one of these formats, it's important that you be willing and ready to ask for help.
Are you self-disciplined? Do you complete tasks early or on time?
Online and Video Courses
In general, students who do best in Distance Learning courses are self-motivated and have excellent study habits and time-management skills. Without regular classroom meetings and reminders from faculty, it can be tempting to let your work pile up. But if you can pace yourself, it's easier to stay on task. You'll also be relying on technology throughout your course. If you can complete your work early, you can avoid last-minute technical glitches that can otherwise cause you to be late with assignments.
Do you prefer to read course materials and instructions rather than listen to them?
In an online course you will read, rather than hear, a lot of what's "said." Though streaming video does form a part of some online courses, most likely you won't simply be listening to a professor deliver lectures day in and day out. Instead, you may spend more time doing research, and reading materials on the web, in e-mails and other downloaded files, and on course discussion boards. Most of your professor's instructions regarding assignments will likely be delivered in writing as well.
Do you have strong writing skills?
In an online course, you'll communicate with faculty and classmates in writing. Whether you're studying English, engineering, nursing, or something else entirely, you must be able to express yourself clearly. Your participation in the course — by regularly posting your questions and comments on course discussion boards, or communicating with classmates and your professor via e-mail — is often a significant part of how you will be evaluated in the course.