Although how you learn may depend on your learning style, there are some tips for learning online that apply to just about everyone. Here are three things you should make sure you do, two things you shouldn’t do, and one thing that is absolutely forbidden, if you are wanting to learn online.
Three things to do:
To complete a degree online means often working alone when your friends are out enjoying themselves, and it means maintaining this level of commitment for a long period of time. To achieve this, you must have a high degree of motivation. We did some research on success factors for our mature-age online learners. The number one factor wasn’t previous exam results – it was motivation. Even with very few previous academic qualifications, we found that students would succeed providing they were motivated. So, do make sure that you are highly motivated to learn.
Unfortunately, many of us were not taught how to learn. Instead we were only taught “rote learning”. Somewhere along the way we were expected to acquire the other skills needed to acquire knowledge. Learning online requires that you develop these skills. This not only means having the technical skills of how find books or web sites on a topic, it also means having well-developed critical reading and thinking skills. Many programs or colleges will provide a course to help you acquire such skills, e.g., the Open University UK online course “Living with the internet: learning online” – it would be well worthwhile taking it so that you do know how to learn.
In an online course, real learning takes place when you are interacting with others on the course. So try to find a learning group, either in your area or online – your e-Tutor may well facilitate this. You can then take part in “social learning” – and you will find that you only truly “know” something when you try to explain it to someone else. Make sure that you respond to all the e-Tutor’s requests for feedback and do participate in the course discussion forums.
Two things not do:
For many of us, our school experience taught us to be “passive learners” and such learning seemed to be a useful strategy for success. Unfortunately, that is not a useful strategy for success in today’s world, or, indeed, in online learning. If you are learning online, the courseware often includes questions, exercises and further reading so that your learning can be active rather than passive. You must make sure that you complete all the exercises and that you thoroughly interact with the material so as to gain the most out of it. This also helps to maintain your motivation. So – do not be a passive learner.
Just because it is a flexible form of education, it doesn’t mean that you can keep “putting it off”. Procrastination, and then trying to fit it all in at the end, has caused so many failures. Don’t leave it until the last minute to upload your assignment or you can guarantee that your Internet service will go down just at that moment. So be organised – manage your time. Set aside a regular time in your diary for study of the material and completion of assignments – well before the due dates. Do not be a poor time manager.
I recently heard of a government official who had his position taken away from him on the grounds that he hadn’t earned his qualifications because they were from a “diploma mill” – a business that simply prints diplomas and degrees. He protested that he had “earned” them because he paid good money for them. You must always make sure that the online qualification you receive is from an accredited institution and the form of accreditation is recognised in your country. Never “buy” a qualification from a “diploma mill”.
And last but not least of the tips for learning online – find the program you really want to do
It’s important to take a program that you really want to do. Don’t just do something because your friends are doing it, or because a relative says it will get you good job, or because someone else thinks you should do it.
It is also important to take your program at an appropriate school – and this may partly be about convenience and partly about reputation. If you know the subject area you want, use the search form on this page to find the school or program most suitable for you. If you want to know more about specific online learning program areas, the web site has a section on online programs.
For those students who feel that online learning is not for them, the web site also has a section on campus programs.
Summary of tips for learning online
So, in summary and stated positively, here are the tips for learning online:
- make sure that you are highly motivated to learn;
- know how to learn;
- participate in the discussion forums and other interactive media;
- be an active learner;
- be a good time manager;
- get your qualification from an accredited college;
- find the program you really want to do
List of schools and programs