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Succeeding at Distance Education

The following items outline important facts about the nature of distance learning. You should be aware of these facts before enrolling in a distance education course.

  1. Distance learning (regardless of the type: web-based, telecourse, or tapes-at-home course) requires the student to be an independent worker. Some students relish this independence while others are less comfortable with it and miss the face-to-face experience.
  2. Freedom from appearing for face-to-face class sessions is a double-edged sword. Although this freedom is liberating, it also requires more self-discipline on the student’s part than a campus-based class experience. Some students find it difficult to create their own work schedule to keep up with weekly class work.
  3. The time allowed to complete a distance-education course is often the same as the time allowed to complete a face-to-face class (e.g., 16 weeks per semester). Because most distance education courses require a lot more reading and writing, however, students in distance education
  4. Distance education courses often require students to use a variety of technologies. All tools can be frustrating when you first learn how to use them. If technology frustrates you and you find temporary problems or inconveniences overwhelming, this might be a difficult classroom environment for you.
  5. Some distance education courses require a significant amount of student-to-student interactions; however, these interactions are quite different from the ones that occur in face-to-face classes since they are usually done in writing. Some students find written interactions difficult, while others find them more rewarding than the kind of communication that occurs in a traditional classroom.
  6. Most distance-education courses require a significant amount of written instructions. Some students find this appealing because instructions are displayed clearly. Other students find this difficult because they learn more from hearing a teacher explain directions and because they find it tedious to read so much.
  7. Distance education learners need to know how to ask for help. In other words, distance education students should be assertive enough to send an email to the course instructor (or to another student), post a question to the class discussion board, or pick up the telephone when questions arise that must be addressed.
  8. Some students will put off the work in a distance course when personal or professional obligations arise. They feel that the distance course can be done "anytime" and that these other obligations are more important. It is really important to set a time aside to work on your distance course, making your class schedule a priority that cannot be deferred.
  9. Some students find it difficult to remember that there is really an instructor connected with every distance education course. Even if you don’t ever meet your professor face-to-face, that person is an integral part of the course, wanting your interactions and awaiting your participation in class.
  10. Expressing yourself in writing becomes very important with most distance-education courses. Almost all course communication occurs through writing. If you are not a particularly good typist or if you don't like to write, then you might find distance education courses an uneasy fit for you.