Is Distance Learning right for me?
What is Distance Learning?
Distance Learning (or online learning) is when the internet becomes most or your entire classroom. You, your classmates and instructor are in different places, engaging and interacting at different times of the day and night using a computer or even a mobile device.
In order to self-assess your readiness for learning online, we have adapted a brief questionnaire, developed by Penn State University, to determine your strengths and weaknesses. The questionnaire can be found at https://forms.reynolds.edu/olreadiness/ and will only take a few minutes to complete. Read below to gain more understanding of what it takes to be a successful online learner.
What does online learning look like at Reynolds?
Reynolds uses the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) to provide a “learning space” online. You simply log in to your MyReynolds account, select Blackboard, and find links there for each class in which you are enrolled. Blackboard is used for campus based and online classes, so it is important to every student at Reynolds. Through Blackboard, your instructor will provide a number of learning resources. They may include readings, assignments, media, blogs, wikis, and links to a world of information on the subject you are studying. There will also be discussion boards, group work spaces, tools to assess your learning, etc. You will use tools like discussion boards, blogs, and wikis to replicate the conversations that take place in a traditional classroom. If you want to experience an online class before enrolling in one, we encourage you to take CDL 001, Reynolds’ orientation to learning online. It is a free class that gives you the chance to try out distance learning and build skills for success.
What does it take to be successful? In a nutshell, students who are successful distance learners are:
- able to commit to 8+ hours per course each week
- good readers
- able to learn in a variety of ways
- able to follow instructions to complete complex tasks
- comfortable with technology
- able to work independently
- able to prioritize workload
- able to stay focused without close supervision
- able to assess their learning progress
Ask yourself these questions to determine your readiness for distance learning:
- Do you have access to a reliable, modern computer and are you comfortable using it? Successful distance students need to access their college email and Blackboard accounts multiple times a week for a dedicated period of time. You also need to be comfortable performing these computing functions:
- turning on a computer
- using a keyboard
- using the mouse
- saving and attaching documents
- navigating through a website
If you are uncomfortable working on a computer now, improve your skills through an on-campus class or other training to gain these skills. You may use the computers in the Library, attend Success Workshops on technology topics, and practice being comfortable with the computer and the software that operates on it.
- Are you an independent learner? Students who learn best by hearing or in an environment surrounded by other students may find learning online more challenging. Online classes often require reading information (instead of listening to a lecture) and do not have face-to-face interaction with classmates or instructors. JSRCC’s online classes are primarily asynchronous meaning that everyone completes their work within their personal schedule and are not “live.” Taking a distance learning class means that you will not be meeting with your teacher at a set time so there will be no one “looking over your shoulder to provide verbal reminders. One of the great things about distance-learning courses is you have greater freedom of scheduling your time, but more self-discipline is required.
- Can you set aside time to focus on an online class? Successful online students are ones who can minimize the distractions in their lives and dedicate the time to focus on their coursework. You should have a dedicated space at home to work, even if you have a mobile device and Wi-Fi. Working on your online courses in front of the TV is NOT a good idea! Studies recommend that successful students must be willing and able to commit to 5 to 10 hours per week per course. Online is not easier than the traditional classroom – just more flexible.
- Are you good at managing your time? While time management is critical to student success in any college course, it is particularly crucial for an online student. A common misconception is that learning online takes less time. In reality, studies show that distance learning requires at least as much time as on-campus courses. Students report that distance-learning courses are as hard or harder than on-campus courses and that they may require even more time and commitment.
- Are you comfortable with your skills as a reader and writer and have you completed any developmental reading or writing courses? Distance learning students need to be comfortable in a reading and writing intensive learning environment because most online communication is written. Successful completion of developmental reading and writing courses is an important step prior to enrolling in a distance learning class.