About Distance Learning
This unique environment is not ideal for all students, and it's better to determine now if it's not for you rather than at midterm. Consider the following desirable qualities in a distance learning student.
Why are you considering a distance learning course?
If you're juggling a job, taking care of a family, pursuing your education and trying to maintain a semblance of a life, then the flexibility afforded by distance learning could be a huge plus for you. However, distance learning courses are not "easier" or less time-consuming than the traditional courses. In fact, distance learning courses typically require more of your time, due to the increased amount of reading and writing assignments to convey course material.
Are you a disciplined, self-directed learner?
Self-discipline is not an option for the distance learner. You must be focused and able to work independently without constant prompting. Remember, in most cases you will be working alone with little interaction among students and instructors. If the social aspect of a class is a priority for you, then this environment is probably not for you.
Do you have time for this?
Estimates of time spent on an online course is usually as much, and often more, than the same class taught face-to-face. Effective time management and organizational skills are critical -- you must be able to organize your time and resources. Setting weekly and monthly schedules to plot out how much material you have to cover and target dates for completing assignments helps tremendously.
Is your learning style a good match for distance education?
Consider your learning style. Do you prefer learning by listening, looking, reading or doing? Is classroom discussion important to you? Do you need constant reassurance and instant feedback?
There are many delivery modes available for distance learning -- Web-based, TV, print, and more. You can find the right match for your individual learning style in a distance learning course, but it may require some research.
Are your academics skills strong enough?
Only proficient readers and writers need apply. The volume of reading will be large in most distance learning courses. If you have difficulty comprehending the average textbook, it could have a profound effect on your ability to succeed in some online courses. On the other hand, some instructors present information very basically and clearly. Check out the course site and see what's expected.
The volume of writing is almost always sharply increased. The plus to this environment is that you have plenty of time to formulate what you want to say, revise your written assignments and/or responses, and use the ever-supportive spell check!