According to U. S. News and World Report, there are more than 6.1 million students taking advantage of the benefits online education offers.
Online education has opened up a whole new world to individuals who otherwise might not be able to attend college. It allows students a flexible schedule and the ability to work higher education in around their other responsibilities.
Yet, in spite of the many advantages of online education, there are important differences between it and traditional classes that are often overlooked by those new to the virtual classroom. While the convenience is truly amazing, some students find that learning online is more challenging than they expected. Being prepared for the unique challenges that online classes involve is much of the battle.
Knowing yourself, your learning style and the things needed to be a successful online student can help you assess if online classes are right for you.
Ability To Work Independently
Because the classroom is anywhere and everywhere you happen to be, students most often work alone in online classes. Though some classes require group work, most of the time students need to be able to work independently to be successful.
Some students thrive on the comradery available in the traditional classroom and feel more secure when they know the professor is available to them in person at least two or three times a week. Depending on the class and instructor, some students feel online classes are like self-study programs where they are in charge of the pace at which they move through material.
While this type of learning is beneficial to some students, it can be a downfall to others. Make sure you are ready to work without much interaction from others before registering for online classes.
Disposition Towards Self-Motivation
Some students are motivated by the involvement with others in discussions and projects, while others find their motivation from somewhere inside.
Being successful in online classes requires students to be self-motivated so that reading, assignments and tests get completed on time. If you have a difficult time making yourself do things that you would rather not do, you may want to re-think registering for online classes.
Students who are extraverts many times “feed off of” others’ motivation and can feel isolated in the virtual classroom due to the lack of spontaneous engagement that the professor and peers bring to the classroom.
Willingness To Ask Questions
Of course, all students need to be willing to ask questions if they don’t understand something, but in the online classroom, students are less likely to “hear” other students’ questions being answered. Often in a traditional class, learners who dislike talking in class get lucky because one of their peers will ask the same question they have.
Online professors will occasionally send out a mass email or put up an announcement if they receive several emails asking the same question, but generally, if a student needs clarification regarding an assignment or some aspect of the material, they will need to reach out themselves to ask the professor.
Some students find this a daunting prospect while others are comfortable addressing the professor on their own. If this is challenging for you, you may need to stretch out of your comfort zone when taking an online class.
Ability To Look Ahead
Students who read assignment guidelines for the first time the day the assignment is due are repeatedly disappointed because it may be too late by then to get clarification or to get all of the reading completed before the assignment is due.
Looking ahead is definitely important in any class, but is especially imperative in an online class. Since the student is in charge of when they “attend class” and finish work, it can be all too easy to become short-sighted and then get behind.
Keeping an eye on what’s coming up next and preparing for it is an essential characteristic of being an effective online student.
Inclination Towards Self-Discipline
This is another personality trait that all students need to some degree, but once again, taking online classes require even more than normal self-discipline.
Students who are known to procrastinate often do poorly in online classes because they lack the stick-to-it-ive-ness that it takes to get work done ahead of time. Some students simply need the routine of physically going to class to get into the groove of getting all of the work done on time.
Knowing yourself and your learning style can help you assess the ease with which you could discipline yourself to create a routine to fit class time in at regular intervals.
Good Study Environment
You may believe that the freedom of being able to take the classroom with you anywhere will make your life easier, and to an extent, this is true.
However, students new to online education quickly learn that there are locations that allow for more distraction than completed work.
It’s essential to have a study area set up that is conducive to you and your way of learning. While it’s great to be able to take your laptop on the road or to a café, having a place at home that is only used for studying is invaluable to getting students in the right frame of mind for concentrating on their studies.
Solid Formal Writing Skills
Regardless of what type of online classes you take, you will be required to do much more writing than you would in the traditional classroom.
The reason for this is because in online classes, writing is the main form of communication-talking to peers, participating in class discussions and asking the professor questions will all require writing skills.
Making a good impression will most likely come down to how well you can use the standard English language to make your points, so it is important to put aside the type of writing you do when texting or instant messaging friends, and bringing out your best formal writing for all communication.
Reliable Computer And Internet
You would think this would be self-evident, but trust me, it isn’t. There are always those students who assume they will go to the library or to a friend’s house to access their online classes, but it rarely works as they planned.
There are also places in rural areas where high-speed Internet isn’t available. Having your own dependable Internet connection is vital to the success of all online students. It’s just as important to have a computer that is new enough to be dependable and able to download the latest updated software.
Students who have limited access to a newer computer and high-speed Internet typically find that online classes are more hassle than they are worth, so if you plan on taking online classes, make sure that these tools are in place before you get started.
Time Management Skills
Time management is tricky for all college students, but consider how much more tempting it is to be on the Internet whenever you are “in class.” Students who successfully complete online classes are able to resist the temptation to check email, social media and the like during scheduled class time.
If you want to take advantage of the conveniences of online education, you too will need to determine when you are most alert, how often you personally need to be engaged in class materials and where you get your best studying done.
Time management is essential to all professions, so learning these skills now will put you a step ahead of others, while ensuring your successful completion of online classes.
Willingness To Seek Out More Information
In a traditional classroom, if a student needs more information to fully understand the concepts being discussed, they simply ask the professor for examples or more details.
But in an online class sometimes that same student may need to search out some additional material themselves. Many professors put supplemental materials in their classes, but students who need additional help may need to seek out the information on their own or access tutoring.
Of course you can always ask your professor to give you some additional resources, but you may find that you need to spend time locating quality information that can help you fully comprehend the material.
If you find that you don’t have some of the things listed here, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful in online classes. It just means that you need to be prepared to change the way you think and work.
Set a schedule for “class time,” get involved with some of your peers through chat and email features, email your professor to introduce yourself, use a writing or grammar style guide if you are unsure about your writing skills. If you see online education as your best option but don’t have the technical requirements, save up until you can get them and then don’t let anything stand in your way.
The most important thing is to go in with your eyes wide open instead of buying into the myth that online classes are easy.