Is an online course right for you?
The questions as as well as explanations for each of the questions
are shown below. These explanations will give you a good idea of what
to expect from an online course. At the end you will find a link to the
next section which will ask you about your computer skills.
1. The amount of time I expect to spend on my online course is:
a) more than I would for an on campus course.
b) the same as I would for an on campus course.
c) less that I would for an on campus course.
If you are interested in a online course because you think that it
will be less work than a traditional on campus course, then this style
of learning may not be right for you. Most of our students believe that
an online course is at least as much work as an on campus course. In
fact many say that their online course involved significantly more work.
However, most students feel that this additional work load is more than
compensated by the fact that they were able to "go to class"
whenever they had the time, whether it be 2 a.m. or 6 p.m.
2. In regards to assessing my own progress and learning in a course:
a) I feel I can gauge how well I am doing on my own, even
with little instructor feedback.
b) I need regular feedback from my instructor, but that feedback does
not need to be immediate.
c) I need frequent and immediate feedback to assess my progress.
If you answered (a) or (b) an online course will probably work fine
for you. However if you answered (c) you may be disappointed with this
learning format. Due to the nature of learning in this format feedback
from you instructor may not be as frequent or as timely as you are used
to from a traditional class. However, this can vary from course to course
depending on the teaching style of your instructor. Many students feel
that they actually receive more quality feedback from their instructor
in this format. Many students also feel they have more consistent contact
with their instructors in an online course.
3. I consider my reading skills:
a) Very good- I need very little or no help to understand
what I read and to implement that knowledge.
b) Average- I need to go over some sections twice and sometimes need an
instructors help to understand the material.
c) Not great- I have to reread many sections and usually need help in
understanding the material.
Most of the course materials in an online course are presented in a
written format. Instead of being presented to you orally, the lectures
are text based in an online course. As a result, you are unable to ask
the instructor for immediate clarification if you do not understand
a point being made. Instead you will need to contact your instructor
via electronic communication. Due to the inherent time delay in this
form of communication, the clarification you may need will not be immediate,
and it will be essential to your success that you be able to understand
the material you are reading. As a result, if you answered (c) then
this format of learning may not be right for you.
4. When it comes to assignment deadlines:
a) I usually have things done ahead of time.
b) I usually have things done on time but sometimes need reminders of
c) I often turn in things late or forget that they are due if not reminded
One of the most important things to understand is although you are
able to work on your coursework when you want to, online courses are
NOT self-paced courses. They have assignment deadlines just like an
on campus course. Not meeting these deadlines and falling behind in
their coursework is the leading reason why online students do not succeed.
Since you do not have a regular class meeting time, it is essential
that you are able to keep on top of your assignments. You will not have
instructors and fellow students to remind you.
5. I prefer my feedback from an instructor to be:
a) Written comments.
b) Written comments with some oral clarifications if needed.
c) I need oral comments to understand the feedback.
If you answered (c) you may not be happy with an online style course.
This style of teaching usually does not involve oral feedback. The feedback
you will be receiving will almost exclusively be written comments. It
is essential to you success that you be able to understand this type
6. When given an assignment I prefer to:
a) figure out the instructions on my own with little clarification.
b) try to understand the instructions, then ask for clarification.
c) have the instructions explained to me in detail.
If you answered (c) you may have problems with this type of course.
Most successful online students are those that are able to work well
independently and with little direct guidance. While it is true that
your instructor is there to assist you in understanding the course materials
it is your responsibility to seek out this help.
7. Classroom discussion is:
a) very important to my learning style.
b) somewhat important to my learning style.
c) not important to my learning style.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Although there
is no in person discussion in an online course, there is still discussion.
The amount of discussion will depend on the structure of the individual
course. This interaction will likely take the form of an online discussion
group, chat, or e-mail. The thing to consider is whether or not having
discussion in an electronic format will work for you. For some students
electronic communication is a poor substitute for face-to-face discussion.
However, many of our students actually prefer this style of discussion
and feel they participate more freely than they do in an on campus setting.
8. Having face to face contact with my instructor is:
a) not important to me.
b) somewhat important to me.
c) very important to me.
In an online course there is usually little or no face to face contact
with your instructor. If you answered (c) and feel that you need to
see you instructor often in order to succeed then this style of learning
may not be right for you. Some instructors do make arrangements for
in person office hours or make special arrangements to meet students.
However, you should plan on the vast majority of your contact with your
instructor being via e-mail or other electronic communications.
9. I consider my learning style:
a) Visual: I learn best by reading and viewing visual aids.
b) Auditory: I learn best when things are verbally explained to me.
c) Tactile: I learn best by "doing" (i.e. a lab experiment).
Although some online courses have elements that fit all three of these
learning styles, most of the information is still presented visually.
As a result, if you answered (b) or (c) then an online class may not
be a perfect fit for you. If you answered (b) then you may consider
one of our courses that use videotapes to supplement the course materials.
If you answered (c) then you may want to look into one of our courses
that include hands on labs. However these classes do require an on campus
meeting once a week to perform those experiments.
10. My primary motivation for taking a class online is:
a) I need it for my major or I am very interested in the
b) I love the Internet and taking a class this way seems like a perfect
fit for me.
c) I want to save time.
If you answered (a) you should have the necessary motivation to take
an online course. The most successful online students are ones who are
taking a course in which they have a personal interest or one that is
necessary for their graduation. If you answered (b) then an online course
may work well for you or it may not. Just because you love being online
does not mean that you will like learning is this format. Some of our
unsuccessful students are ones who were merely fascinated with the technology,
but who had not really thought out the ramifications of taking a course
in this format. If you answered (c) then an online course is probably
not for you. While it is true that you will most likely not have to
come to campus and that you can work on your on schedule, this in no
way means you will spend less time on your online course. In fact most
students feel that they spend at least as much if not more time doing
work for an online course.
11. The socials aspects of the traditional on campus environment:
a) not very important to me.
b) somewhat important to me.
c) very important to me.
If you answered (c) then we do not recommend a schedule that consists
solely of online courses. While there are opportunities for interaction
with your classmates in an online course, this interaction may be unsatisfying
for someone who needs high levels of social activity as part of their
learning experience. If this is true for you, you may want to look into
taking some on campus courses to supplement your online courses. This
is not to say that you will not have interaction with your classmates
in an online course. In fact many of are students say that they got
to know their fellow classmates better in this type of learning environment.
If you answered mostly a's:
You should be an ideal online learning student. Your answers
reflect that your learning style and academic needs are in tune with the
realities of taking a course online. However, this should not lead to
to think that it will a seamless transition. There will surely be some
adjustments you will have to make to your learning style, but these adjustments
should be relatively minor.
If you answered mostly b's:
An online course should work for you, but you may need to make
some adjustments to your learning style in order to be successful. You
should review the explanations above too see the areas in which you will
need to make those adjustments. The lower you score, the more difficult
you may find it to make those changes. However, with effort you should
be able to make those adjustments and have a productive online learning
If you answered mostly c's:
You may want to think seriously about whether an online class is right
for you. Your answers indicate that you may be unsatisfied with some
elements of the online learning environment. This is not to say that
for you taking an online course will surely end in disaster, but we
highly recommend that you look closely at the explanations above. You
will likely need to make major changes to your learning style to succeed.
Use the information on this page to help you decide if those are changes
you think you can make. If you decide that these changes sound
like too much for you too overcome, then don't worry, online courses
are not for everyone. However, if you decide to make the attempt we
will gladly welcome you as a new online student.
Now that you know what it will be like to take a course online, the next
question is do you have the computer skills necessary to be a successful
online student. To find out take the computer
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