Is Online Learning Right for You?

10/24/10 by Sadie DeWitt

I used to take college classes at a local community college, but it didn’t work out for me.  I am a single mother of two kids and hold down a full-time job, so not only was it difficult to find courses that fit around my schedule, I also had to pay a small fortune to a babysitter in order to be able to attend evening classes.

After watching my savings dwindle away and seeing my grades suffer because I kept falling asleep during important lectures, I decided to call it quits.  It’s not that I’m not smart… I just couldn’t handle the stress of attending online classes, taking care of my kids, and working full-time.

I didn’t ditch my dreams of pursuing a higher education, though.  Instead, I decided to enroll in an online program.  I’m proud to say that I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration next fall!  And quite frankly, I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish all that I have if it weren’t for online learning.

In some ways, online learning is just like learning in a traditional classroom.  You work alongside a group of students and your instructor provides you with texts to read, exercises to do, and assignments to complete.  As with traditional college classes, what you get what you put into it.  Nevertheless, some people find that online learning just isn’t a good fit for them because they have a hard time planning out their own schedule and motivating themselves to study without having somebody over their shoulder.

In my experiences both in a traditional classroom setting and working with other students in online learning environments, I have found that the people who thrive in online programs share the following characteristics:

Learn by reading and writing – People who do well in online learning environments tend to learn the best by reading and writing.  On the other hand, those who learn the best when they listen to lectures and watch presentations may do better in a traditional classroom environment.

Take responsibility for their own learning If you are an active learner who takes responsibility for your own learning, you will likely find that online learning is a great fit.  Some people do just as well, if not better, without having someone there to tell them what to do.  They don’t need someone to assign them work and give them deadlines because they are self-motivated and capable of setting their own goals.

Capable of resisting distractions – Whether your kids are in the house causing a ruckus, your TV is beckoning you with its juicy daytime talk shows, or you can’t resist taking frequent trips to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat, studying in your house can be very distracting.  People who do well in online learning environments know how to set their boundaries and drown out all of the disturbances in the background.

Already have a social life – Online learning isn’t a good fit for anyone who wants to make new friends and lead a fun and wild social life.  In fact, online learning can be very isolating, unless you’re already comfortable with your current social life.  Typically, those who do best in online learning environments are grown adults or those who are raising children and don’t have time for parties and socializing.

Are comfortable with technology – Students who thrive in online learning environments tend to be computer savvy.  Taking online courses requires basic technical skills as well as the ability to adapt easily to new technologies.

Don’t procrastinate – Online learning requires self-motivation and the ability to work well independently.  If you procrastinate and get all of your assignments done at the last minute, online learning probably isn’t right for you.  Online learning is convenient because it allows you to work at your own pace, but if you constantly put off your assignments, you’ll undoubtedly have trouble catching up, which could end up adding months, or even years, to your studies.

Online learning is an excellent choice for some personality types, but it isn’t right for everyone.  If you exhibit little to none of the above characteristics, you may want to reconsider your decision to pursue an online learning program and try to attend courses at a traditional college campus instead.

On the other hand, if you possess the aforementioned qualities, you will likely find that online learning is a rewarding path. I’m definitely glad that I took the plunge!  Online learning has allowed me to work full-time, raise my kids, and pursue challenging coursework, all at the same time.  Sure, I haven’t been able to join a sorority, play college sports, or do anything else that’s associated with traditional colleges, but I also think that has allowed me to focus more on my schoolwork and excel academically.  And I’m certain that all of this hard work is going to pay off once I graduate.

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