Things to Consider Before Enrolling in an Online Course...
Perhaps the greatest advantage of online learning is the tremendous flexibility in completing assignments.
An online class is available whenever the student is ready. Class occurs when the student logs on, whether it is 5:00 a.m. or midnight; whether at home, on the job during lunch, in the library, or in a lab.
However, an online class is not for everyone. For instance, if you need the discipline of meeting on campus several times a week and you enjoy the in-person interaction between other students and your instructor, you are more likely to succeed in a regular class. Online courses require extreme self-discipline.
You must log on 3-5 times per week and be prepared to read and follow through on assignments and instructions. Students must plan to spend 10-15 hours per week on coursework.
Initially, a great deal of time is spent becoming familiar with Blackboard and dealing with technical problems. Technology can be unreliable. The plan to submit homework at the last moment can be defeated with a busy or down server. Sometimes the cyberdog will eat your homework. That however, is not an excuse for not submitting homework! You should always have a copy saved so you can resubmit. Failure to do so leads to more work and point penalties.
A successful online learner is generally:
- Self-motivated (does not need a lot of direction, motivation from the instructor)
- Self-disciplined (can budget time wisely and does not procrastinate often)
- Enjoys the challenge of learning on her/his own (likes to read and learn)
- Takes charge of her/his own learning (willing to ask questions and seek help when necessary)
- Communicates well in writing
- May need a flexible schedule but understands that flexibility does NOT mean the course will be easy.
Other Questions to Consider...
If you answer “yes” to most of the following questions, online courses may be right for you.
1. Do you have reliable access to a computer and the Internet?
You must have unrestricted access to a computer and the Internet. An alternative means of Internet access through a computer lab, local library, or a friend is a good idea in case your computer or your usual connection method fails during the course.
2. Do you enjoy writing and participating in a discussion forum?
Most communication in an online class consists of written messages between you and the instructor and discussions among class participants. If you have difficulty with an assignment or have questions, you must be willing to “speak up” to inform the instructor. Good typing skills are a plus.
3. Do you feel comfortable interacting with your instructor and fellow classmates in an online environment?
Although not the same as a face-to-face course, a distance education course will still involve interacting frequently with your class in an online environment through chat rooms, discussion forums, and group activities. It is important for students to be able to work independently.
4. Do you frequently use e-mail and browse the Web?
You must “check in” to your online classroom regularly. Successful online students tend to do this daily. This can include working on assignments, participating in discussions or group projects, and responding to e-mail. If you’re not accustomed to routinely accessing the Internet, it may be difficult to motivate yourself to do the work. You must be disciplined enough to keep your coursework current.
5. Does your schedule make it difficult to attend classes on campus?
One of the major reasons students register for online courses is that it is more convenient to take courses without having to come to campus at a specific time. Keep in mind that you must still spend about the same amount of time (10 to 15 hours per week) on coursework as you would for a face-to-face course.
6. Do you read course material carefully?
Much of the material you’re required to read for a Web-based course is online, and you must read it carefully. Some students just print out the syllabus and key information to read offline. It’s important to realize you can’t just skim over the content and be able to have a clear understanding of when assignments are due and what is expected of you.
7. Do you like to plan ahead and finish assignments a few days ahead of schedule?
It’s often tempting to wait until the last minute. If you’re a procrastinator, you may have already learned that sometimes things don’t work quite as well as you had hoped. With online courses, it’s better to get your work done a little ahead of time so if problems do occur, they can be resolved prior to the deadline. Good time management is a key to success in an online course.
8. Are you familiar with basic computer functions, such as copying and pasting text as well as backup procedures?
As with any computer application, saving your work by backing up important files is a necessity in case of a hardware problem. If such applications are unfamiliar to you, consider taking a basic computer class before registering for online courses. It’s necessary for you to be familiar with basic computer functions, such as copying and pasting text from one location to another.
9. Do you enjoy solving problems and learning new programs on the computer?
Sometimes learning new programs or applications on the computer can be frustrating if they don’t work exactly as you expect. Taking an online course may require you to learn new techniques beyond just e-mail for interacting with other students in the class.
Source: University of Pittsburgh - College of General Studies.