Is Online Learning Right for You?
The following two excercises will help analyze your learning style and computer skills. Each question is followed by an explanation of how the answer you selected answer may inform your decision to take online courses. Each excercise is followed by an overall assessment of your answers.
1. The amount of time I expect to spend on my online course is:
If you are interested in a online course because you think that it will be less work than a traditional on campus course, then this style of learning may not be right for you. Most of our students believe that an online course is at least as much work as an on campus course. In fact many say that their online course involved significantly more work. However, most students feel that this additional work load is more than compensated by the fact that they were able to “go to class” whenever they had the time, whether it be 2 a.m. or 6 p.m.
2. With regard to assessing my own progress and learning in a course:
If you answered (a) or (b) an online course will probably work well for you. However if you answered (c) you may be disappointed with this learning format. Due to the nature of learning in this format feedback from your instructor may not be as frequent or as timely as you are used to from a traditional class. However, this can vary from course to course depending on the teaching style of your instructor. Many students feel that they actually receive more quality feedback from their instructor in this format. Many students also feel they have more consistent contact with their instructors in an online course.
3. I consider my reading skills:
Most of the course materials in an online course are presented in a written format. Instead of being presented to you orally, the lectures are text based. As a result, you are unable to ask the instructor for immediate clarification if you do not understand a point being made. Instead you will need to contact your instructor on-line. Due to the inherent time delay in this form of communication, the clarification you may need will not be immediate, even though it will be timely. It will be essential to your success that you be able to understand the material you are reading. As a result, if you answered (c) then this format of learning may not be right for you.
4. When it comes to assignment deadlines:
One of the most important things to understand is although you are able to work on your coursework when you want to, online courses are NOT self-paced courses. They have assignment deadlines just like an on campus course. Failing to meet these deadliness and falling behind in coursework will lead to an unsuccessful online learning experience. Since you do not have a regular class meeting time, it is essential that you are able to keep on top of your assignments. You may not have instructors and fellow students to remind you.
5. I prefer my feedback from an instructor to be:
If you answered (c) you may not be happy with an online style course which usually does not involve oral feedback. The feedback you will be receiving will almost exclusively be written.
6. When given an assignment I prefer to:
If you answered (c) you may have problems with this type of course. Most successful online students are those who are able to work well independently and with little direct guidance. While it is true that your instructor is there to assist you in understanding the course materials it is your responsibility to seek out this help.
7. Classroom discussion is:
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Although there is no face-to-face discussion in an online course, there is still discussion. The amount of discussion will depend on the structure of the individual course. This interaction will likely take the form of an online discussion group, chat, or e-mail. The thing to consider is whether or not having discussions in an electronic format will work for you. For some students electronic communication is a poor substitute for face-to-face discussion. However, many of our students actually prefer this style of discussion and feel they participate more freely than they do in an on campus setting.
8. Having face to face contact with my instructor is:
In an online course there is usually little or no face to face contact with your instructor. If you answered (c) and feel that you need to see your instructor often in order to succeed then this style of learning may not be right for you. Some instructors do make arrangements for in person office hours or make special arrangements to meet students. However, you should plan on the vast majority of your contact with your instructor being via e-mail or other electronic communication.
9. I consider my learning style:
Although some online courses have elements that fit all three of these learning styles, most of the information is still presented visually. As a result, if you answered (b) or (c) then an online class may not be the best fit for you. If you answered (b) then you may consider one of our courses that uses videotapes to supplement the course materials. If you answered (c) then you may want to look into one of our courses that includes hands-on labs. However these classes do require an on campus meeting once a week to perform those experiments.
10. My primary motivation for taking a class online is:
If you answered (a) you should have the necessary motivation to take an online course. The most successful online students are ones who are taking a course in which they have a personal interest or one that is necessary for their graduation. If you answered (b) then an online course may work well for you or it may not. Just because you love being online does not mean that you will like learning in this format. Some of our unsuccessful students are ones who were merely fascinated with the technology, but who had not really thought out the ramifications of taking a course in this format. If you answered (c) then an online course is probably not for you. While it is true that you will most likely not have to come to campus and that you can work on your own schedule, this in no way means you will spend less time on your online course. In fact most students feel that they spend at least as much if not more time doing work for an online course.
11. The social aspects of the traditional on-campus environment are:
If you answered (c) then we do not recommend a schedule that consists solely of online courses. While there are opportunities for interaction with your classmates in an online course, this interaction may be unsatisfying for someone who needs high levels of social activity as part of the learning experience. If this is true for you, you may want to look into taking some on campus courses to supplement your online courses. This is not to say that you will not have interaction with your classmates in an online course, in fact many of our students say that they got to know their fellow classmates better in this type of learning environment.
If you answered mostly a’s:
You should be an ideal online learning student. Your answers reflect that your learning style and academic needs are in tune with the realities of taking a course online. However, this should not lead you to think that it will be a seamless transition. There will surely be some adjustments you will have to make to your learning style, but these adjustments should be relatively minor.
If you answered mostly b’s:
An online course should work for you, but you may need to make some adjustments to your learning style in order to be successful. Review the explanations above to see the areas in which you will need to make some changes. However, with effort you should be able have a productive online learning experience.
If you answered mostly c’s:
You may want to think seriously about whether an online class is right for you at this time. You may be dissatisfied with some elements of the online learning environment. Taking an online course need not end in disaster but we highly recommend you look closely at the explanations above. You will need to make major changes to your learning style to succeed. Use the information on this page to help you decide if that is possible.
1. I have been using a computer regularly:
Since you will be doing most of your coursework on your computer, it is imperative that you have the computer skills necessary to perform those tasks. If you are not comfortable using a computer, then taking an online course may not be for you. Do you really want the added stress of struggling with a computer? Classes have enough inherent stress as it is.
2. I have been using the Internet regularly:
Although computer skills are very important to your success with an online course, it is not the only technological factor. Your course will be taking place over the Internet and instructors will often use Internet resources to supplement their courses. If you have had very little experience using the Internet, you may have some problems feeling comfortable in this type of learning environment.
3. I consider my e-mail skills:
E-mail is an important means of communication in an online course. You may be required to exchange documents with your instructor via e-mail attachments.
4. I consider my word processing skills.
Because your communication with your instructor and your fellow students is written, it is imperative that you be able to work well with a word processing program. We usually recommend that you do all of your work in the word processing software and save each document on your computer before submitting your work. In order to post the information you need to know how to access your files and how to be to cut and paste the information you need between applications. If this is all foreign to you then you may want to postpone taking an online course until you feel your word processing skills have improved.
5. When asked to use new technologies (i.e. DVD, Internet, voice mail, computers, etc.):
Regardless of your previous technological skills if you are new to online learning you have to become familiar with the course management system used. You may have to use some new technologies in your course. If you are intimidated by learning new technologies or software, then an online course may not be right for you. Many students are able to overcome these obstacles, but there are also many for whom the learning curve is too step.
If you answered mostly a’s:
You should have all the technical skills to take an online course. While you need to become familiar with the course management system, you should be able to pick up these skills quickly.
If you answered mostly b’s:
You may find the technology used in your course challenging, but you should be able to work through it with some effort.
If you answered mostly c’s:
You are likely to find the computer skills needed in an online course very challenging. Which could hurt your chances for success. We highly recommend that you improve your skills before considering an online course.
We hope these two exercises were able to provide a profile of a successful online student, indicate what the online learning environment is like, and help you decide whether or not you will enjoy and excel in an online learning environment. If you still have questions consult your academic advisor or contact the Online Education Office via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (914)606-6827.
(Surveys used with permission from Hudson Valley Community College)