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How to Take Online Distance Learning Classes

Updated on December 18, 2012

Learning is something that was encouraged in my family and, in many ways, expected. I have attended many, many classes in my life. I enjoy learning. I also believe it is a necessity.

If you have ever enrolled in continuing education, you most likely have done so to earn a degree or to help you succeed in your job. Today, online education is at an all-time high. There are dozens of reputable institutions offering online classes and thousands of websites providing online courses and webinars.

Whether you are considering an online education to improve upon your current skills or you have a desire to learn an entirely new skill, there is a way to ensure that your online learning experience will be a success.

This Young Lady Outlines several Key Elements to a Successful Online Learning Experience.

What Are The Benefits Of Online Learning?

Simplicity - Thousands of classes are available online. Once you decide that you want to take a class, it is really only a click away.

Accessibility - Let's say that you live in New England and the class you really need to take is only offered at a California University. No problem. Take the class online. There are classes offered abroad, as well.

Flexibility - Online classes are very often made to suit your schedule. If you have a job or other commitments, many classes are offered several times during the day and night.

Comfort - The thought of taking a class in your pajamas is appealing to many people, but the idea of comfort extends much further than that. For some, attending a crowded classroom can be so distracting that it takes away from their learning. Safety is another matter. Icy roads and snowy conditions can derail students driving to class. Being safe, saving on gas and being relaxed in your own home all benefits to online learning.

Financial - eLearning is not entirely without cost. If you choose to earn a degree or certificate, it may, in fact, cost nearly as much as going to college. However, there are many, many classes offered at reasonable rates and others are free. Some of the free online classes even offer a certificate.

What Is Your Goal?

Today, there are so many options for online learning. Various colleges and universities now offer certificate and degreed programs for higher studies in nearly all subjects. Before signing up for any class, I recommend that you peruse the web and decide, first, what you wish to achieve. If you are seeking to add a particular credential to your portfolio or want to earn a degree, it would be best to do a little homework to see which courses provide degrees and what the costs for the degree is.

If your aim is to simply improve upon your existing skills or perhaps expand your knowledge, you may not need a degree and therefore, you should investigate those online classes that are offered free of charge.

When you are researching online classes be sure to investigate each institution that you are interested in. Sadly, there are people trying to scam unsuspecting individuals. If in doubt, call the school to get details about their programs.

Checkout These Impressive Statistics Regarding eLearning

How To Choose A Class.

1- Does the class suit my needs: Don't merely choose a class based on it's title. Most, if not all online courses have a description printed underneath the course title. Read that description to be certain that the class is what you are looking for. I also recommend that you review the class yllabus. The syllabus will provide additional details about the classes structure.

2- What level is this class: Classes will be described as beginner, intermediate and advanced. Once you have found the course that suits your needs, you must then determine that the class is offered at the right level for you. Reviewing the class syllabus will be helpful in deciding if this is the right matches your level of expertise. If the syllabus outlines topics that are completely unfamiliar to you, it may be best to take a lower level course.

3- What are the requirements of this class: If you intend on earning a degree or certificate from this class, be certain to read all corresponding information on the class before signing up. Double-check the assignment deadlines to be sure you are capable of fulfilling your requirements, especially if you paid for the class. If your current schedule is filled with full-time employment, a family and a volunteer position, be sure that you can make the time for the 2-hour lectures.

Have You Ever Taken An Online Class?

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eLearning Is Not For Everyone.

Before deciding to enroll in any online coursework, consider your personality. While many people are quite comfortable with taking classes at home, many others are not.

If you are easily distracted, taking a class at home may not be wise for you. If there are multiple priorities that will easily interfere with your learning, signing up for a class that you take at home may not be in your best interest.

While some people enjoy exercising at home, others must go to the gym in order to feel modivated. Likewise, if taking a class at a nearby college with other students is the only way that you stay committed, online learning may not be the best choice for you.


Time To Begin.

Once you have selected a course and reviewed the class syllabus, what's next? If you've opted to take a class for a degree, classes schedules will be set for you, along with exam dates and completion qualifications. If, on the other hand, you have chosen to participate in a class to simply improve your skills, you may have more flexibility in your class time.

Recently, I completed an online course on computer science. I don't want a degree in that field, I would like to develop my computer skills further. I would have liked to received a certificate from the school, but the class had already closed and I was unable to meet the requirements for the degree. However, like many classes, the instructor posted that class materials so that anyone could learn the material even after the course had closed.

I decided to take the class regardless because I wanted to learn the material. The class lectures and videos were made available to me, as were the quizzes (of course, no grades were issued).

Preparing for this class was easy. Once I signed up and the material was available, I printed the course syllabus and created a schedule for myself. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were "class" days. I didn't schedule a class time, but you certainly could.

One each of those days, I would watch 2-3 video lectures, taking notes as I progressed. When I had questions, I would pause the lecture and research my question. That was particularly helpful because I recall as an undergraduate student, not being able to stop the class to find the answers to my specific questions.

When taking an online class it is best to behave in the manner you would if you were taking a class at a college. Here are a few tips that will help you:

Create a comfortable work space. Although you maybe at home, I don't recommend taking the course while hunched over a laptop on your bed. Sit at a desk or table with elbow room.

Have the supplies you need before you begin. If you are a note taker, have plenty of paper and pens. Don't wait until you have a question to scramble around hunting for a notebook.

Tend to your responsibilities prior to starting the class. Somethings just can't be helped and things happen, especially if you are at home with children or pets (or roommates). The more interruptions you have the longer the class will take and the less you will learn and enjoy it.

Follow your schedule. Just because you can watch the 24 video lectures in one day, doesn't mean that you should. Be in the moment. Absorb the information that you are being given and my guess is you will be tired after class just as you would in a typical class environment. If you are under a deadline and must complete the class quickly, be sure to take breaks between lectures. Get some fresh air. Go for a walk. You're more likely to retain the information after a bit of physical activity.

Get involved. If you have the opportunity to join in a class forum, I highly suggest that you do. Joining a group provides a feeling of community and others in your group may be of help or support to you. While taking classes at home can be beneficial, being at home alone for long stretches of time can be difficult. Likewise, if you have a laptop and do not get distracted, take a few hours and attend class in a public location. Just knowing that other people are around can make you feel connected.

Share your knowledge. The most important outcome of an online education is that you have learned something - congratulations! Now what you want to do is note this achievement on your social networks and resume. Let people know that you have this new knowledge. Share it. Because isn't that what knowledge is for.


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    • AlexisG profile image


      3 years ago

      I've done several online classes that were done through a public college and they went well. I definitely prefer in-person classes, but its hard to match the connivence of doing a class in the comfort of your own home at your leisure.

    • alifeofdesign profile imageAUTHOR

      Graham Gifford 

      8 years ago from New Hamphire

      B. Leekley, there are so very many different classes and webinars-it's great. I have no doubt that you would be able to find a class that suites several of your interests. I'm taking another one myself now.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      8 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Up, Useful, and Interesting. I might give online learning a try sometime.

    • alifeofdesign profile imageAUTHOR

      Graham Gifford 

      8 years ago from New Hamphire

      Hello starchet. Yes, I have. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees the "old fashion" way. I attended college. However, I have also attended several certificate programs, as well as, online seminars and continuing education classes at my local high school. I recently completed my first online class via coursera (the computer class I mentioned in the article) and I am currently taking organizational analysis, again, via coursera. I really like them. They offer much information and I can work my way through the material at my own pace. If you haven't taken classes online yet-I recommend it. Best Regards,

    • starchet profile image

      Chetan Jariwala 

      8 years ago from San Jose

      just wonderful. I was wondering if you have taken online classes yourself?


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