According to the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, more than 6.7 million students took online courses during the fall 2011 semester. Perhaps you’re considering joining their ranks, but you’re not sure about the online learning experience, or if online courses are the right fit for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself to decide if you’re ready to start pursuing an education online.
Do I have an open mind about learning? Online learning doesn’t rely on the traditional classroom model. While technology is making headway in allowing students to participate in lectures in real time, online courses are typically facilitated through message boards and recorded lectures. Online students need to have open mind as to how learning takes place.
Am I comfortable with technology? You don’t have to be a computer programmer to make this work. Skills necessary for many online courses include emailing, attaching and downloading documents, doing online research and communicating over Skype. If you don’t already know how to do these things, you should be willing to learn.
Am I motivated to learn? Being motivated to reach an educational goal helps students stay on track. Online education requires self-discipline and personal drive. One key characteristic of people who succeed in online courses is that they drive themselves to achieve specific learning outcomes.
Do I need/want flexibility? Online courses offer the benefit of a flexible schedule. While with a traditional class you are required to attend at prescribed times, with an online program, you can do it at your pace.
Am I an effective time manager? Online classes don’t have the same built-in accountability that comes from spending face-to-face time with a professor and fellow students. While you may be able to log in at times of your choosing, each course will also include deadlines for participation and assignment submission. You have to be aware of these dates and work steadily toward them.
Is my plate already full? Some students approach an online education believing they can just add it to their already full plate. Just because courses are online, they still take a significant amount of time and effort. Taking a class is like having a part-time job. According to the United States Department of Education, one credit hour requires 37.5 hours of student involvement, so a three-credit class will take over 100 hours of your time.
Am I passive learner? If you go to a college class in person, you can sit in the back, listen to the instructor, take notes and go home, but that doesn’t work as well in an online setting. Online learning requires the student to ask questions and reach out to support services. Students who need extra guidance must take the initiative to seek out help.
Am I an auditory learner? If you’re an auditory learner, the online environment may not be the best fit for you. Online classes rely heavily on reading and visual communication. Be sure to research the delivery methods of an online course or program before enrolling.
Am I willing to participate? Even though you’re not physically present with them, engaging on a regular basis with both the instructor and the other students will help you get the most out of your online course. Push yourself to be communicative.
Am I choosing an online education because it’s easier? Some people choose an online education because they think it will be along the lines of playing a video game, but they soon realize that it’s not “an easy pass out.” Online degrees allow for great deal of flexibility, but “convenient” does not equal “easy”.
Online classes are excellent choices for people who want flexibility and are driven to learn. If you’ve determined that online education is right for you, it’s time to start exploring your options. See if Colorado State University offers an online course of study that suits your goals.