Online Learning

Is Online Learning Right For You?

Do you have the necessary computer
skills to be a successful online student?

Each of the questions as well as explanations for each of the questions are shown below. These explanations will give you a good idea of what computer skills you will need to be successful in an online course.

1. I have been regularly using a computer:

a) for over 2 years.
b) for 1-2 years.
c) for less than one year.

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 regularly using the internet:

a) for over 2 years.
b) for 1-2 years.
c) for less than one year.

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 your instructor will likely use numerous internet resources to supplement their course. 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 email skills:

a) Advanced: I use email daily and I frequently send attachments.
b) Intermediate: I use email at least 2 or 3 times a week and I have sent a few attachments.
c) Minimal: I use email less than once a week. What's an attachment?

Email will be your primary means of communication with your instructor. Many courses also require you to exchange documents electronically with your instructor via email attachments. The more comfortable you are with this form of communication, the better your chance of success in an online course.

4. I consider my word processing skills.

a) Advanced: I use a word processor frequently and have little problems creating documents. Cut and paste? No problem Ctrl-C Ctrl-V
b) Intermediate: I use a word processor regularly, but sometimes need help creating the document. Cut and paste? I think I know how to do this, Edit...Cut
c) Minimal: I have little or no experience using a word processor. Cut and paste? Where are my scissors and glue.

Since the great majority of you communication between yourself, your instructor and your fellow students is written, it is imperative that you be able to work well with some word processing software. We usually recommend that you do all of your work in the word processing software and save it before posting the information to the class discussion, sending an email to your instructor, or taking an online essay type quiz. In order to post the information you will need to know how to access your files and to be able 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 are more proficient.

5. When asked to use new technologies (i.e. DVD, internet, voicemail, computers, etc.):

a) I look forward to learning new skills.
b) I am a little nervous, but still make an attempt to learn.
c) I feel very anxious and try to avoid using new technologies.

Regardless of your previous technological skills, most likely you will have to learn some new technologies during the duration of your course. The course management system that is used to facilitate the teaching our courses is generally considered user friendly. However, there is a learning curve involved in understanding how to interact with that system. 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 problems, but there are also many for whom the learning curve is simply too much to overcome.

If you answered mostly a's:

You should have all the technical skills to take an online course. While there may be some learning curve involved in understanding the course management software, 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. You may want to consider taking one of the workshops offered through the Computer Learning Center (see information below) at the beginning of your course to help supplement your skills.

If you answered mostly c's:

You will likely find the computer skills needed in an online course very challenging. You may in fact find that these challenges could hurt your chances for success in your course. We would highly recommend that you improve your skills before considering an online course. Please read the following section which will give you more information on how to these skills.

What do I do if my computer skills are insufficient?

If you did not score well on this quiz, or you feel as if your computer skills need work that does not necessarily mean that an online course will not work for you. However, you may want to consider postponing taking an online course until after you have developed those skills. The Computer Learning Center at Hudson Valley offers free workshops to students who want to improve their computer skills. They have workshops on all of the skills you would need to be successful in an online course. Some students enter their course with limited skills and develop them as a result of having to learn on the fly. However, many students with limited computer skills also end up withdrawing from a course because the learning curve was simply too great for them to overcome. Ultimately the decision as to whether or not your skills are sufficient is up to you. We will not keep you from enrolling in a class because you do not have the skills. However, we do want you to have the best possible chance at success, and our studies have shown that lacking the necessary computer skills can be detrimental to student performance. As a result, we highly recommend that if you do make the choice to take a course with a limited skill base, that you utilize the numerous resources available to you early on to help you succeed.

We hope that these two exercises were able to give you an idea of what is necessary to be a successful online student, what the online learning environment will be like, and whether or not you will enjoy and excel in that environment. If you still have questions you can consult our Frequently Asked Questions page which may be able to answer some of them. You are also welcome to contact the Distance Learning Office via email or at (518) 629-7070.

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