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Is Distance Learning Right For You?

Taking a distance learning course has many advantages that might be important to you:

  • Increased scheduling flexibility.
  • An opportunity to study when and where you wish (anytime, anywhere learning).
  • Enhanced access to the instructor, course materials and course resources.
  • A chance to learn using new and emerging technologies.

However, a distance learning class is not for everyone.  For instance, if you need the discipline of meeting on campus several times a week and you enjoy the in-person interaction between other students and your instructor, you are more likely to succeed in a regular class.

 Online courses are not easier or less time consuming than traditional courses. On the contrary, online courses often require more time than a traditional face-to-face course. Online courses also require you to be more disciplined and to accept a greater responsibility for your own learning. If you find it difficult to stay motivated or to meet deadlines without prompting from your instructor, online learning may not be for you. 

A successful distance learner: 

  • is self-motivated (does not need a lot of direction, motivation from an instructor)
  • is self-disciplined (can budget time wisely and does not procrastinate often)
  • enjoys the challenge of learning independently (likes to read and learn)
  • takes charge of her/his own learning (willing to ask questions and get help when necessary)
  • reads well and communicates well in writing
  • may need a flexible schedule but understands that flexibility does NOT mean the course will be easy.

Skills that are necessary to be a successful distance learner include the ability to:

  • Use browser software (FireFox or Internet Explorer)
  • Use a search engine (Yahoo, Google, Bing, etc.)
  • Send and receive email (including attaching files)
  • Save files to your hard drive
  • Find files on your hard drive (navigate folders)
  • Use word processing software that can save files in the MS Word format.
  • Update your computer with anti-virus software

If you have decided to give distance learning a try, be sure that you have an up-to-date computer and the technical skills and knowledge that will be required to succeed in an online course. 

Still Undecided?

Check out our Self-Scoring Assessment below to help you make the right decision!               


  Assess Your Skills 

Answer the following questions by selecting one answer to each question.  This quiz can help you decide whether a distance-delivered course is right for you.  It is for your own use only, so try to be as honest and as accurate as possible.

1.  My need to take this course now is:

            a.  High--I need to take it immediately for a degree.

            b.  Moderate--I could take it on campus later,

                 or substitute another course.

            c.  Low--it's a personal interest that could be postponed.

2. Feeling that I am a part of a class is:

            a.  Not particularly necessary to me.

            b.  Somewhat important to me.

            c.  Very important to me.

3.  I would classify myself as someone who:

            a.  Often gets things done ahead of time.

            b.  needs reminding to get things done.

            c.  Put things off until the last minute.

4.  Classroom discussions are:

            a.  Rarely helpful to me.

            b.  Sometimes helpful to me.

            c.  Almost always helpful to me.

5.  When an instructor hands out directions for an assignment, I prefer:

            a.  Figuring out the instructions on my own.

            b.  Trying to follow the directions on my own, then asking for help as needed.

            c.  Having the instructions explained by the instructor.

6.  Being in the same classroom as my instructor is:

            a.  Not important to me as long as I have access to the instructor.

            b.  Somewhat important to me.

            c.  Very important to me.

7.  Considering my professional and personal schedule, the amount of time I have to work on a course is:

            a.  7-9 hours per week.

            b.  4-6 hours per week.

            c.  1-3 hours per week.

8.  When I am asked to use DVD player, computers, voice mail or other technologies that may be new to me:

            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.

9.  As a reader:

            a.  I usually understand the text without help.

            b.  I sometimes need help to understand the text.

            c.  I almost always need help understanding a college text.

10.  If I have to go to campus to take exams or attend review sessions:

            a.  I can get to campus almost anytime.

            b.  I work during the day and can only get to the campus in the evenings or

                 on weekends.



Add 3 point for each "a" that you circle, 2 points for each "b" and 1 point for each "c."  If you scored over 25 points, these courses area real possibility for you.  If you scored between 15 and 25 points, they may work for you, but you may need to make some adjustments to succeed.  If you scored 14 or less, these courses are probably not a suitable option for you. 

If you have decided to give distance learning a try, be sure that you have an up-to-date computer and the technical skills and knowledge that will be required to succeed in an online course.