Is It Right for Me?
Students are expected to establish and maintain high levels of involvement and interaction throughout the semester. Some find online learning to be a positive, rewarding experience; others experience frustration and difficulty succeeding in this type of class. Possessing certain qualities will increase your chance for success with, and enhance your enjoyment of, online classes.
You know yourself best. Answering these 10 questions thoughtfully will help you determine if online learning is right for you. When done, click the "Score" button at the bottom of the page to tally your results.
Interpreting your answersThank you for completing the distance learning self-assessment! Below, you will see the questions you have just answered and some information about what your responses may mean.
1. Having face-to-face interaction with my instructors and fellow students is
(a) not particularly important to me.
(b) somewhat important to me.
(c) very important to me.
By its very nature, distance education is education that occurs via methods other than face-to-face interaction. That does not mean that distance education doesn't rely on interaction however. Classes taught at a distance can be even more interactive than some classes that occur on campus! Through e-mail discussion groups, telephone conferencing and video conferencing, some distance education classes provide ample opportunities for students to interact and their instructors and other students.
But if face-to-face interaction is very important to you, think carefully before enrolling in a distance education class.
2. I would classify myself as someone who
(a) is good at prioritizing tasks and often gets things done ahead of time without being reminded by my instructor.
(b) is sometimes poor at prioritizing, needs to be reminded of assignments once in a while, and often does assignments at the last minute.
(c) is poor at prioritizing and sometimes forgets to complete assignments if I'm not reminded about them frequently.
If you answered (a), then you are a very good candidate for a distance education class. Because you won't be sitting in a classroom on a regular basis and won't have your instructor or classmates nearby to remind you of assignments, you must be fairly self-directed and conscientious about completing assignments to succeed in a distance-delivered class.
3. When an instructor hands out instructions for an assignment, prefer
(a) figuring out the instructions myself.
(b) trying to follow the directions on my own, then asking for help as needed.
(c) having the instructions explained to me.
As we noted in Question 2, most distance learning takes a more-than-average amount of initiative and self-direction. In classes in which there is little or no real-time interaction with the instructor, you'll be better off if you are willing to try to follow directions on your own. That isn't to say that there aren't some distance-delivered classes in which instructors carefully go over instructions on each assignment - it's just not always something you can count on. Your instructor is also available via phone and email to assist you when needed.
4. When it comes to assessing my own progress, I
(a) feel as if I can keep tabs on my progress, even without immediate or frequent feedback from my instructor.
(b) prefer to receive regular feedback from my instructor, but don't mind if I can't get that feedback immediately after turning in a test or assignment.
(c) need feedback from my instructor immediately and often.
If you answered (a) or (b) to this question, a distance-delivered class will probably be fine for you. If you answered (c), however, you may be dissatisfied with the amount of feedback you receive in a distance-delivered class. Because of the distance, and sometimes, time, separating you from your instructor, it can be difficult for instructors to provide feedback quickly and frequently. Of course, the amount of feedback you receive ultimately depends on your instructor's personal style (just as it does in any kind of class). An instructor who places a high priority on giving students feedback quickly can accomplish that regardless of the distance separating you.
5. My need to take a distance education course is
(a) high - I need it immediately for a degree, job advancement or other important reason.
(b) moderate - I could take it on campus or substitute another course.
(c) low - It's a personal interest that could be postponed.
As with all things, the greater your motivation to do something, the greater the chance that you'll succeed at it. This is certainly true with distance education. Since you will (in most cases) be on your own, rather than in a classroom surrounded by other students, there could be times when you will be tempted to put things off. A high level of motivation will be important at those times.
6. Considering my professional and personal schedule, the amount of time I have to work on a distance education course is
(a) 7-9 hours per week.
(b) 4-6 hours per week.
(c) 1-3 hours per week.
Many people who have never taken a distance-delivered class before mistakenly assume that it will take less time than a traditional, on-campus class. This is certainly NOT true. A distance education class is just as demanding as any other class. The only "time savings" you can expect in a distance-delivered class is the time you would have otherwise spent commuting to and from the class. On the other hand, a distance education class does make it much easier for you to choose WHEN you spend your available time doing coursework. With some classes, it doesn't matter whether you do your coursework at 2 am or 6 p.m.; it's entirely up to you.
If you answered (a) or (b) (depending on the class) you probably have the time necessary to complete a distance-delivered class. If your answer is (c), you probably don't have time to take a class right now.
7. When I am asked to use software or technologies that I haven't used before (such as e-mail, voice mail, a VCR),
(a) I look forward to learning new skills.
(b) I feel apprehensive, but try anyway.
(c) I put it off or try to avoid it.
As long as you're willing to try, to spend the time necessary to get comfortable with a new technology, and to seek out the help you need when you run into trouble, a technology-dependent distance education class can work for you. But if you answered (c), you may want to limit your class choices to those that do not employ technologies you are unfamiliar with. A telecourse, which requires that you set your VCR to record overnight broadcasts, may be a better choice for you than an online class, which may involve using several new technologies at once.
8. If I had to describe my predominant learning style/preference, I would say it is
(a) Visual - I learn best when I can read the course materials or view graphics and other visuals.
(b) Auditory - I learn best when I can listen to an explanation of a concept.
(c) Tactile - I learn best by "doing" (for instance, conducting an experiment in a lab).
You may not be able to identify your optimal learning style right now, but as soon as you enroll in a class that is not a good fit, you'll know it! If you are (a), a visual learner, a telecourse or an online class will probably work for you. Much of the instruction is text based - readings from one or more textbooks or supplemental sources and written discussions. If you answered (b), these formats, especially the telecourse, may still work for you as readings are supplemented by videos. However, if you rely on lectures for learning, you may prefer a telecourse to the online format.
If you answered (c), it may be somewhat difficult to select distance-delivered classes that will fit with your learning preference. While distance education classes certainly do employ techniques through which students are asked to learn by doing, it may be difficult to discern which classes those are merely from the delivery methods they use. Consider checking with the class instructor to find out more about how your learning style will fit with the class.
9. My personal and professional schedule is
(a) predictable, I can generally plan, well in advance, blocks of time to devote to my coursework.
(b) generally predictable, but sometimes last minute meetings or events come up that I cannot reschedule.
(c) unpredictable, I rarely know when I'm going to have free time that I can set aside for my coursework.
This question gets at the issue of whether your schedule can best accommodate a synchronous or asynchronous class. A synchronous class is one that has set "meeting" times (even if the meetings occur via satellite or real-time chat). Synchronous classes have schedules that are determined well before the class begins (every Thursday at 7 p.m., MT, for instance). Asynchronous classes don't have set meeting times. Rather, you choose the times when you receive class materials. Perhaps that will occur by going to a Web site to view the materials or by watching a lecture on videotape. Also keep in mind that some distance courses involve periodic trips to campus or other central location most often for testing and labs. Information about the course schedule is available in the description.
If you answered (a), then you can probably fit in either type of class. If you answered (b), then a synchronous class may be problematic for you. If (c) is your answer, you should probably steer clear of synchronous classes and instead choose an asynchronous class that you can "take" anytime of the day or night. If 11 p.m. is when you have a block of time for coursework, an asynchronous class may be a perfect fit. Also, if getting to campus is difficult for you, check the course description or with the instructor about on-campus requirements.
10. My reading and writing skills are
(a) excellent, I understand most of what I read and can express myself clearly in writing.
(b) average, I sometimes need help understanding what I have read or clearly expressing my thoughts.
(c) poor, I often have difficulty understanding written material or clearly expressing my thoughts.
Most distance learning courses rely heavily on written communications. Assigned readings supplemented by videos and written discussions are the primary methods of instruction. You need to be comfortable with written materials and directions. Also, because most of the communication between instructor and student (s) and among classmates is written (email or discussion forums), you must feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and opinions in writing.
If you answered (a), you should have no trouble with an online course. If you answered (b), you may have some difficulty or need to devote more time to your work. If your answer is (c), you may want to consider enrolling in an on-campus class.
Thanks for taking the quiz! Ultimately, YOU are the only person who can decide whether you are a good candidate for a distance-delivered course or program. But, we hope these questions and answers helped to make you think about the important differences between traditional education and distance education.
If you feel you are a candidate for online courses, the next step is to evaluate your computer equipment. You may either have a Windows PC or a Mac. For many courses, a Windows PC is preferred. Check with your instructor.
If you do not believe you would succeed in an online course, several options are available to you. You can learn more about other distance learning formats and programs offered by your institution or you can learn more about campus-based courses and programs offered by your institution.