According to data from 2014, in the United States nearly 30% of college students participate in some form of distance learning, whether due to issues with mobility, work commitments or simply a desire to have more flexibility in their studies.
While online studying does not offer the same one-on-one contact that comes with traditional courses, it allows people to obtain the same skills from the comfort of their computer, so long as they have access to good internet connection.
That being said, although students don’t have to worry about turning up on time for lectures, eLearning carries its own set of challenges that are important to be aware of before enrolling on a course.
Below are various different aspects of eLearning to help you decide whether it’s the right choice for you.
Online courses are no easier than regular courses
A common misconception surrounding online courses is that they are in some way easier than courses that require students to physically show up to participate. They demand just as much reading, homework and writing, and in some cases, may be considered more challenging due to the lack of contact with a tutor who can quickly help to answer any queries you may have.
In addition, there is the question of motivation as distance learning does away with the need to be surrounded by fellow coursemates, instead leaving you to your own devices to complete work. Being determined, focused and self-disciplined are all qualities that any eLearner must have in order to yield the best results from their studies.
Spend time picking the right course
Dedicating sufficient time to ensure that the course on which you are enrolling is the right one for you is essential in minimizing the scope for potential problems further down the line. If your sole motivation for choosing a course is because of financial considerations, such as selecting a course in law because lawyers earn more than the national average, then you should take a step back and determine whether it is something you will be interested in enough to complete the full period of study.
It is much better to think about what really interests and excites you before investing the time and money into a course. It is also advised that you try and be as specific as possible when deciding where to focus your attention, as formal training tends to be more valuable than general study.
For example, if you are interested in shaping the future generations and making a difference to people’s lives through teaching, then enrolling on an ECU masters in education would be a better option than taking a course in history.
Find a reliable study space
As for online learners, there are no dedicated study spaces like there are on university campuses, finding an area in which you can get your work done with minimal distractions is important to obtaining successful results. Whether it’s a local library, cafe, your bedroom or a pay-per-visit hotdesk, it is essential to have reliable and high-speed internet connection, quiet conditions and somewhere you can take regular breaks.
Self-discipline tends to be a recurring issue for those on eLearning courses, therefore switching off all social media and cell phones is recommended to reduce the temptation to procrastinate. Downloading software that allows its users to blacklist certain websites, such as social media platforms, video streaming sites and online marketplaces, can contribute significantly to improving focus and creating a productive environment for studying.
You will not be free whenever people need you
One of the frequent complaints that freelancers make is that many people tend to assume that they are available at all hours of the day, simply because they do not have to follow a strict work schedule imposed by a boss. The same applies to those who are enrolled in an eLearning course. With no specific lectures to physically turn up at, friends may try and persuade you to accompany them on a trip to the beach or a visit to the cinema with the belief that you can drop and pick up your work whenever it suits you.
It is essential, right at the start of your course, to make it clear that friends and family must respect your working hours, treating you in the same way as if you were attending a regular full-time course. Like social media, these distractions can lead to a loss of focus and a final panic to submit work within the deadlines.
Creating a study plan that clearly outlines your schedule, learning goals and expected results is a great idea for developing a routine and reaching your objectives in good time. Time management is a difficult aspect of completing any course, and in eLearning, it is more important than ever to maximize your chances of success.
Ask for help
Working through a problem by yourself and overcoming challenges independently are valuable traits to have, however you must also know when the time is right to ask for outside help to get you through. Tutors are there for a reason, so struggling and stressing out about work not only lacks sense, it can actually be counter-intuitive.
Don’t be afraid to ask people for help when you encounter something you can’t fully understand; more often than not, the answer will be staring you right in the face, you just needed someone to explain it in a slightly different way to fully grasp it.
Build a relationship with your online tutor, whether via email or over the phone, so that when it comes to asking questions, they can adapt the way they explain the answer in a way that makes sense to you. Also, avoid leaving it to the last minute to ask for help. Tutors are often very busy with other students and may not get back to you in sufficient time to submit your work.