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{March 6, 2010}   Online learning

Are you ready for online learning?

More and more people are turning to distance learning, and online courses in particular, as a way to improve their career prospects, acquire new skills and gain academic qualifications.  But before you sign up for a course, you really need to consider whether online learning is right for you.

Do you really want to learn?

You need to be highly motivated to be a successful online learner.  It’s not enough to just think ‘I ought to do something to improve myself’ – you really have to want to study the subject.  Remember that you won’t receive the same support as you would in face-to-face classes.  You may have contact with a tutor, and possibly other classmates, but when you’re facing a blank computer screen with only 24 hours to an assignment deadline and nothing yet written, you’re on your own!

Can you stick to a schedule?

The best way to study online is to set aside specific times during the week for study.  Before you enrol on a course, think about when you will be able to do the work.  It may help to keep a record of a typical week, and see when you can slot in the study periods necessary.  Then think long and hard – are you going to be able to keep up this schedule?  If you’re the kind of person who always puts things off for another time, online learning may not be for you.

How do you learn best?

People have different learning styles, and some are more suited to online learning than others.  If you like to study on your own, enjoy working out how to do something rather than being given a detailed explanation, and don’t need frequent and immediate feedback, then you are probably a good candidate for online learning.  On the other hand, if you need constant help and reinforcement, or learn best through discussion with others, you may be better suited to face-to-face learning.

Are you organised?

Do you always know where you’ve put things, or do you spend ages looking for misplaced objects?  Do you save documents with meaningful names, in appropriately labelled folders?  When you’re sitting down at midnight to write that assignment, will you have everything you need to hand?  Studies have shown that successful online learners are well organised.  You haven’t got time to waste looking for that important article.

Have you got the time and the space?

Many of the people who go in for online learning are already very busy people.  They probably have a demanding job, a family, outside interests.  If you are considering online learning because you haven’t got time to go to face-to-face classes, you need to think if you really have time to study at all.  What will you sacrifice in your already hectic schedule?   And where will you work?  You need a space you can escape to, comfortable and free of distractions.



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