Is Online Learning Right for Me?


In online classes, the “classroom” is the Collaborate website. Each class has a course page where the instructor posts reading assignments and other learning resources such as video or audio recordings. There will probably be questions posted each week for online discussion. Students respond in writing to the questions and to each other’s responses, and the instructor responds too. Sometimes there are also online chat rooms and possibly phone classes, depending on the instructor’s preferences. Much of the learning takes place through the interaction among students so that the class becomes a community of learners.

Use of Technology – Beyond the necessary computer hardware and software, you will need:

  1. Comfort using the internet.
  2. Comfort with learning and using new technology.
  3. An email account that you check regularly.
  4. Ability to buy books and conduct other business over the internet.
  5. Capacity to open materials such as Microsoft Word documents and PDF files on your computer.

Learning style and personal context – Online learning works best for people who:

  1. Have time to visit the course page several times a week during the weeks that the course takes place.
  2. Learn well by reading, and have time to read during the weeks that the course takes place.
  3. Learn well by writing, and have time to write during the weeks that the course takes place.
  4. Can manage time effectively and in a self-directed way.
  5. Can stay motivated without in-person interaction and support.
  6. Are comfortable with learner-centered education, in which learning happens by interaction among students as well as with instructor.
  7. Are comfortable contacting the instructor with a problem or question.

A comprehensive article “What Makes a Successful Online Student” is available through the Illinois Online Network.