Online education is more than just a typical class but with computers. While there are many similarities, students who do well in online classes generally have a particular set of skills that allow them to navigate the differences between the two types of learning environments.
Are you the type of person who can be successful with online education? This list of characteristics can help you understand the necessary skills that you already have and the ones you may need to improve before enrolling in an online program.
1. Computer-savvy and comfortable expressing yourself intelligently in Cyberspace
Since you’re reading this article, the answer to the first half is probably a resounding ‘Yes!’. However, it is the second half that may be less familiar to people. Posting comments for an online class is completely different from the type we’re accustomed to in social media. Grammar and spelling errors can undermine even the most well-constructed post. Treat your posts like you would any other assignment for a class.
2. High level of reading comprehension
In a traditional classroom setting, readings are assigned before class and then the instructor goes over most or even every aspect of the material for which you will be responsible. For online courses, you will be responsible for reading and comprehending the material largely on your own. Of course, you can ask questions of your instructor. Nevertheless, you need to have a reading level commensurate with the level of coursework for the class.
3. Proactive learner who takes responsibility
Online courses require that a student is highly motivated. In an article at Huffington Post, President of Ivy Tech Community College Tom Snyder listed motivation as the most important quality for online students. An online course may not be the best choice for a subject that doesn’t interest you. Choose courses where you are eager to learn and share what you are learning with others.
4. Knowledgeable that online courses are more difficult than traditional ones
This is the item that catches the most students off guard. While many expect that an online course will be as difficult as a traditional one, few realize that it will likely require more time and effort than what is needed to be successful in a traditional classroom. Traditional students generally need to spend about 12 hours per week outside of class to do well while online students typically report much higher time requirements of 15 to 20 hours per week for a three credit hour course (source).
5. Reliable computer and Internet connection as well as a backup plan
What will you do if the Internet in your house goes down during the small window to take a test? What if you are working late into the night on a paper and your computer crashes? Successful online students are vigilant about saving their work frequently and on mobile devices (e.g. flash drive) or remotely (e.g. a cloud). They also have backup Internet access such as a friend, library or 24-hour location with WiFi.
Most people can be successful with online learning. Be honest in your self-evaluation and bridge any gaps you may have in your skill set before diving into an online course or program. The reward can be the flexibility, cost savings, and a unique learning experience.