Is Online Learning Right For You?

Each year, more students are turning to the flexibility and convenience of online learning. According to a 2011 study by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during fall 2010 – that’s up 10.1% from the year before. But is distance education right for you? Here are some personality traits that may get in the way of being a successful online student:

You don’t like working independently: It might seem obvious, but online learning requires a lot of self-motivation and responsibility. There isn’t going to be somebody leaning over your shoulder asking where that latest paper is, or calling on you to participate in class. If you’re the type of person who needs the extra push of physically going to a class to participate and stay on top of the work, an online class may not be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you work well when left to your own devices and have the self-motivation necessary to get work done without having to be constantly reminded, online learning should come naturally to you.

You procrastinate: Many students pursue distance learning for the convenience of reading and learning materials when they want, where they want. But like traditional campus-based classes, online classes follow a schedule, too. You might have to log in at a set time each week for a live video chat, respond weekly or daily to message boards, or submit assignments by specific due dates. So if you’re taking an online class and end up not doing any of the work, you’ll be in for a surprise. But if you can make yourself stick to deadlines and due dates, you should have no problem with online classes.

You get easily distracted: The Internet isn’t the only thing vying for your attention when you’re taking an online class. Your spouse, children, television, pet, or routine responsibilities, like doing laundry or making dinner, can also get in the way when you’re logging in from home. When deciding whether to take an online class, consider what distractions you have at home that may prevent you from giving 100% to it. A good tip for online students looking to reduce the amount of distractors at home is to designate a study space and time so that your loved ones will know not to contact you during those hours or intrude in that space.

You enjoy the social element of school: The tools and technology of online learning – and the Web in general – have improved drastically in recent years. You can stay connected with your classmates through message boards and live chats, as well as typical social media tools like email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But if you’re the type of person who loves the physical environment of a school, where you can grab a cup of coffee with your classmate after class to go over the day’s materials, or stick around on campus for a club meeting or sports game, you might feel like you’re missing out by going to school online. Most students are able to connect to others through online communities and over the phone, but some simply need physical, face-to-face contact.