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Learn What to Expect From a Distance Learning Program

written by: Kathy Foust•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 12/2/2011

There are numerous misconceptions surrounding the concept of distance learning. Is this type of study really right for you?

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    What Skills Should a Distance Learner Possess?

    There are those that are under the mistaken impression that distance learning means an easy completion of a degree. This is simply not the case. So, what is distance learning, then? Distance learning is the opportunity for you to complete a degree over the Internet whether from work or home. It's a mode of learning that will require your commitment. And what does it entail? Below is a list of things to expect from distance learning, developed through personal experience.

    • Use of computer skills. From something as simple as cutting and pasting to learning entirely new programs, if you don't already have computer skills, be prepared to develop some! Remember, you are learning in an online format. Just as you had difficulty reading material when you were in preschool, you will learn to use your computer in ways you didn't even know about.
    • Self organization. No one is going to tell you what time to do your class, but they will tell you what is due by what date. It's your job to complete your assignments on time and in a manner that reflects your dedication to your course. If you are undisciplined in your studies, be sure that your instructors will be aware of this and your grade will reflect it.
    • Some bias. Even in this day and age of technological advancements, you will find that some instructors seem almost offended by the fact that you may be taking a course online that they had to take in the traditional manner. This is common with new instructors teaching an online course. Don't let it deter you. Just do your work in such a manner that they know you are taking the course seriously.
    • Frequent communication. In a traditional classroom, you may see your instructor once a week. In an online classroom, instructors measure your attendance by the frequency of your response to their posts and questions. It is not uncommon for instructors to expect you to check in 2-3 times a week with responses on the discussion board or emails to them.
    • Working with time constraints. While you take your tests online and submit your assignments via the Internet, some instructors only allow you to submit assignments and take tests during certain times. That means that if a test is open for two hours on Friday night, then that is the only time you can take it. Also remember that your school or instructor may be functioning on a different time zone than you. Don't wait until the last minute to plan for this!
    • Proctor testing. Though some instructors allow you to take your tests from the comfort of your own home, some will require you to test by proctor. This means that you will set up a proctor yourself. This can be done in a variety of ways. The proctor is there to ensure that you follow the testing guidelines. During testing you are not allowed any electronic gadgets such as cell phones. You may be allowed a calculator as specified by your instructor.

    These are some of the tips that you will need to succeed in distance learning. Though the list may sound intimidating, really it is just a matter of organizational skills and dedication. There are many positive aspects to receiving a distance learning education. However, those positive aspects can best be measured on an individual basis.

    For instance, if you are intimidated by the use of computers, then the fact that you can do your classes at two in the morning if you wish may not mean much to you. However, if you like the idea that you don't have to get a babysitter to go to class, then chances are you will highly appreciate the fact that you make your own schedule.

    Author's own experience