Becoming a successful student can be challenging. This is especially true for online students who are more likely to be juggling more than just school! Today's online student is typically an adult learner who is working in addition to attending classes. As you assess possible programs, take time out to also assess your readiness. There are general skill sets and learning characteristics that necessary for a successful online education experience.
Writing – Are you comfortable with your writing skills? A lot of communication in your courses will involve written work in the form of papers, projects, and discussion forums as well as email with your instructor.
Speaking – Are you comfortable asking questions? The online format means that you will receive a lot of your instructions in written form. You should feel comfortable asking questions for clarification whenever you have them. You should also feel comfortable participating in class discussions that might take place in teleconferences or virtual classroom environments.
Time Management Skills
Time management skills play a role in all aspects of our lives as we try to balance multiple priorities. How much time do you have to devote to coursework during the week? Do you need reminders for deadlines? Use this Time Management Pretest from Ohio University to find out more about your skills as they relate to studying. You'll also find helpful suggestions based on your responses.
Stress Management Skills
Stress management is often linked to time management. As we work to fulfill all of our personal and professional responsibilities, we also need to master techniques to manage the stress that comes along with hectic schedules. How are your problem solving skills? Even the most prepared student will encounter unexpected situations occasionally. What would you do if your computer stopped working or your Internet connection was lost while working on a class assignment? Do you have a support system in place? This system may include a combination of people and resources that can provide you with assistance when you need it.
Online courses rely heavily on technology. You'll need to be confident working with a computer, accessing information via the Internet, and using email as a primary means of communication. Are you comfortable with email attachments, troubleshooting an Internet connection, and downloading software? The College of DuPage has developed an online self-assessment that focuses on the technology skills needed for online learning.
There are additional characteristics that help an online student achieve success. Are you independent and self-motivated? Are you self-disciplined and directed? While some of your academic work may be collaborative and take place in groups, you will also be expected to complete many assignments on your own.
Reading will also be an important part of your online experience. Do you like to read and do you have good reading comprehension? A lot of your instructions will also be provided in writing.
An interest in learning sounds basic, but is essential. Not only will you learn about the topics covered in class, you will also need to learn how to do new things, like use an online library and log into a virtual classroom. A willingness to learn new things is a must!
Many schools offering online programs and courses have already developed self-assessments you can take online. These quizzes and questionnaires will help you review your own strengths and weaknesses. Choose one or two to complete and you will begin to notice several themes.
Are You Ready for Online Learning? – Northwestern State (Take a close look at the learning style considerations included on this site.)
Are You Ready? – GreatDegree.com (This interactive assessment includes demographic information as well as skill and characteristic questions.)
Online Learning Quiz – California University of Pennsylvania (Multiple choice questions about your expectations and skills.)
Are You Ready? – OntarioLearn.com (This one focuses on time management and computer resources)
Distance Learning Quiz – Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (10 quick questions about your expectations and motivation for learning.)
Are You Ready for Online Learning? – American Library Association (Q&A format)
Distance Learning Self-Evaluation – New Mexico State University (Includes questions about personal lifestyle and study skills.)
Note: Several of these self-assessments include links and other information specific to the schools that created them, however, most of the items are general in nature and will be applicable to you in any online program.
Are you ready?
Becoming a successful online student takes time and practice. With each new assignment and course you will develop your skills and enhance your learning characteristics. Understand what to expect and where you need to focus your energy before you start. What can you do to prepare yourself for success in an online class?