Is online learning right for you?

If you search the Internet, you will see online quizzes that try to help students answer this question.  The problem with these quizzes is that they assume that you are trying to decide between a traditional face-to-face classroom and an online course.  If you are like many people considering online courses, you do not live near a university campus or, even if you are within a reasonable commuting distance, you have work and family commitments that make earning your degree difficult.  For you, it may not matter whether or not online learning is right for you – online learning  may be your only option.

So, let’s change the question: how do you need to adapt to the needs of online learning so that you can succeed?

Are you comfortable with technology? Word processors, email, web searching, etc?
If not, then you must first develop a reasonable level of comfort with technology.  It’s not wise to assume you’ll pick up skills as you move along because you should be investing your time learning the content of your courses.  Look to your local community college or adult learning center for technology courses.

Do you have time to commit to university courses?
For every UIS course you take, you should be prepared to spend 8-12 hours each week (double that for summer courses.)  It is vital that you do not take more courses than you have time to study.  If you cannot commit this much time per course, then it will be difficult to succeed.

Do you procrastinate?  
Be honest . . . we all procrastinate from time to time but is this an problem for you?  There are no specific meeting times for online courses so it is easy to think “I’ll work on my class later.”  To keep you motivated, set a study schedule and put it on your calendar and stick to the schedule – just as you would stick to a course schedule if you were attending courses on a campus.  Time management is vital to independent learning.

Do you have a place to study?
Your study space doesn’t need to be elaborate but it does need to be appropriate to the task.  The kitchen table is a great place to study but not if it is also the place that your children are playing or if your roommate is listening to the football game on television in the next room.  A quiet study space is not just good for learning but also for time management since every moment that you are distracted from learning is a wasted moment.

Are you self-directed?
Online learners need to be independent.  Yes, it is fine to ask questions but you should always try to determine answers on your own. For example, if you have a question about an assignment and email your instructor, you may wait a day or two for an answer (this is a reasonable turn-around for an email question.)  If the answer to your question is in the syllabus, then you’ve wasted two days of productivity.  Read syllabi; search university websites; consult the Internet.