Online learning offers a wonderful opportunity for independence, but it isn't for everyone. Learners who are motivated, self-directed, and independent can achieve great things on their own terms. To find out if you'll be successful in an online environment, ask yourself:
Am I able to start up new tasks myself?Online learning provides great flexibility, but with great flexibility comes great responsibility. Students must be able to stick to a routine study schedule, plan their work and work their plan, and be able to complete multiple assignments on a daily basis without reminders from a teacher.
Am I motivated to learn?Online learners must want to succeed. This motivation may be different for each student, but reasons might include wanting to accelerate his or her education; wanting to recoup lost credit in a flexible and convenient manner; or wanting to pursue a serious hobby or career while being in middle or high school. They have to understand the value of education and that it generally leads to more career choices and higher pay.
Am I organized?Online learning requires good time management skills; being prepared technically (for example, having your power cord with you if you are not in your usual study place), as well as having textbooks, notebooks, pens and pencils at the ready; and marking important dates and routine events, like live classes, on a calendar. Creating specific goals, and then creating a “To Do” list and using a weekly planner can help.
Do I speak up when I'm confused or need help?Unlike a brick-and-mortar school, where a teacher might be able to pick up on body language and other non-verbal cues that indicate confusion or a lack of understanding, on-line learners must be able to “raise their virtual hand” so-to-speak and call, e-mail, or stop into our virtual office for help. We can’t help if we don’t know there is a problem.
Do I express myself well in writing, or on the phone?Online learners should possess good written and verbal skills, not only to present the material they are learning, but also to explain when they might be having a technical issue or are confused about how to complete an assignment. They should be able to provide sufficient detail so that the staff on the other side can start troubleshooting the problem.
Am I confident on the computer?Since the classroom is the computer in online learning, students should have basic technological skills: how to create, save, and edit documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; how to navigate the internet; how to safely store, organize, and retrieve documents; and how to upload documents in a learning management system; as well as good keyboarding skills (25-30 words per minute).
Am I patient?On the flipside, are you persistent? Invariably, there will be technical problems because of the nature of online learning (just like there are fire drills in brick-and-mortar schools!). First, you have to be patient with yourself as you learn new technical skills. Secondly, you have to be patient as tech support, teachers, and student support personnel work to resolve problems that come up. Third, if you keep running into problems, it’s important that you don’t give up. Be persistent, and work around, over, or through the hurdles that you may come across.
Am I a strong reader?Most of the instruction delivered in an on-line learning environment is delivered via the written word. As such, there is a lot of reading involved for online learners. They must be able to understand and follow sometimes detailed, multi-step directions. In addition, they must be comfortable reading a lot of documents on a computer screen.
Do I have self-discipline?Distractions can be more difficult to overcome when you are an independent, online learner. You have to be able to turn off your cell phone; avoid your favorite video games; let your friends and family know when your study time is and stick to it; create a quiet place to work; and work consistently and routinely five days a week.