Is an online education the right choice for you?
Making the choice
If you are contemplating any kind of higher education or training these days, chances are you will be considering some form of online education or distance education. But is an online education the right choice for you? Certainly in this age of information just about every aspect of life as we know it has been transformed by the Internet. We bank, shop, work, even socialize using the web. Learning online will help you with different aspects of your life. And as a Master of Distance Education, and a veteran of 16 online courses, I can tell that I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. That's me. But if you are contemplating any kind of online learning ask yourself the following
Are you disciplined?
E Learning requires a fair amount of self-direction. Course are designed with a fair amount of self study. No longer is the teacher delivering you knowledge. It's up to you to orchestrate your learning, how you do it, when you do it. And by the way, your instructor doesn't completely disappear.We're around to help you, support you, and give you feedback. We'll answer your mail, comment in the discussion forums and return your work full of comments, but we won't go chasing after you to do the readings or the assignments. Much more of the onus is on you to do those things than in a face-to-face course.
Do you know your learning style?
To understand if an online education is for you, you need to be intimately acquainted with your learning style - your strengths and weaknesses. Do you learn well by reading and reflecting? Are you more of a hands-learner? Are you a social learner who prefers to interact with others? Although there is a lot of solo work in an online course, there is interaction, albeit less than in a classroom. Can you handle that? Are you comfortable interacting with technology. We all have different methods of learning for which we retain information better than others. Many online courses are reading intensive and text-based. Often they have a written component. If you have difficulties retaining the information you read you may need to find an alternate learning method or seek solutions with the assistance of the course instructor before moving forward in an online learning environment.
Are you motivated?
Many online courses are geared to adult learners who are upgrading or returning to school. As an instructor I can tell you this is the most motivated group I teach. If you are a middle aged adult learner returning to school, chances are you've thought very carefully about your reasons for returning to school or enrolling in an online program. As a middle aged adult learner myself, I spent four years doing a Masters degree online. I can tell that everyone of us in our program knew why they were there. My choice was not casually made, and reminding myself of the reasons I was in school got me over the humps, the challenges, and the setbacks. I knew there was something at the end of it all. If you can't answer this question, however, you may fall by the wayside.
Do you have support?
Let's facing it, doing an online program can be very lonely and isolating. In deciding whether or not an online education is for you ask yourself if you have support. At my graduation, where I saw my fellow students for the first time, each one of us had written a short description of our experiences as students. Inevitably what came out was that many of us couldn't have done it without a network of friends and family who cheered us on, who accepted our temporary unavailability, who got us unstuck during discouraging moments.
For me, I had no doubt that an online education was right. It offered an opportunity, I didn't get in a bricks in mortar institution to complete an advanced degree while I worked. Ask yourself some of these questions, then decide for yourself.
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