Online Readiness Evaluation

Thank you for completing the distance learning self-assessment! Below, you will see the questions you have just answered and some information about what your responses may mean.

How important is face-to-face interaction with your instructors and fellow students?

By its very nature, distance education is education that occurs via methods other than face-to-face interaction. That does not mean that distance education doesn't rely on interaction however. Classes taught at a distance can be even more interactive than some classes that occur on campus! Through e-mail discussion groups, telephone conferencing and video conferencing, some distance education classes provide ample opportunities for students to interact and their instructors and other students. But if face-to-face interaction is very important to you, think carefully before enrolling in a distance education class.

How well do you prioritize tasks?

If you are good at prioritizing tasks then you are a very good candidate for a distance education class. Because you won't be sitting in a classroom on a regular basis and won't have your instructor or classmates nearby to remind you of assignments, you must be fairly self-directed and conscientious about completing assignments to succeed in a distance-delivered class.

How well do you figure out instructions yourself?

Distance learning takes a more-than-average amount of initiative and self-direction. In classes in which there is little or no face-to-face interaction with the instructor, you'll be better off if you are willing to try to follow directions on your own. That isn't to say that there aren't some distance-delivered classes in which instructors carefully go over instructions on each assignment - it's just not always something you can count on. Your instructor is also available via phone and email to assist you when needed.

How well can you assess your own progress in a course?

If you can monitor your own progress or don’t require immediate feedback, then a distance-delivered class will probably be fine for you. If you need immediate feedback, then you may be dissatisfied with the amount of feedback you receive in a distance-delivered class. Because of the distance, and sometimes, time, separating you from your instructor, it can be difficult for instructors to provide feedback quickly and frequently. Of course, the amount of feedback you receive ultimately depends on your instructor's personal style (just as it does in any kind of class). An instructor who places a high priority on giving students feedback quickly can accomplish that regardless of the distance separating you.

How great is your need to take a distance education course?

As with all things, the greater your motivation to do something, the greater the chance that you'll succeed at it. This is certainly true with distance education. Since you will (in most cases) be on your own, rather than in a classroom surrounded by other students, there could be times when you will be tempted to put things off. A high level of motivation will be important at those times.

Considering your schedule, how much time do you have to work on a distance education course?

Many people who have never taken a distance-delivered class before mistakenly assume that it will take less time than a traditional, on-campus class. This is not accurate. A distance education class is just as demanding as any other class. The only "time savings" is the time you would have otherwise spent commuting to and from the class. On the other hand, a distance education class is more flexible. You may choose when you spend your time doing coursework; it's entirely up to you.

If you have more than 4 hours available for coursework (depending on the class), then you probably have the time necessary to complete a distance-delivered class.

How comfortable are you with using new technologies?

As long as you're willing to try, to spend the time necessary to get comfortable with a new technology, and to seek out the help you need when you run into trouble, a technology-dependent distance education class can work for you. But if you usually try to avoid or are frustrated by new technologies, then distance learning may not be for you.

What is your predominant learning style?

You may not be able to identify your optimal learning style right now, but as soon as you enroll in a class that is not a good fit, you'll know it. If you are a visual learner, an online class will probably work for you. Much of the instruction is text based - readings from one or more textbooks or supplemental sources and written discussions. If you are an auditory learner, an online course may not work as well unless materials are supplemented by videos. If you learn by “doing”, it may be somewhat difficult to select distance-delivered classes that will fit with your learning preference. While distance education classes certainly do employ techniques through which students are asked to learn by doing, it may be difficult to discern which classes those are merely from the delivery methods they use. Consider checking with the class instructor to find out more about how your learning style will fit with the class.

How predictable is you schedule?

This question addresses whether your schedule can best accommodate a synchronous or asynchronous class. A synchronous class is one that has set "meeting" times (even if the meetings occur via satellite or online chat). Synchronous classes have schedules that are determined well before the class begins (every Thursday at 7 p.m., MT, for instance). Asynchronous classes don't have set meeting times. Rather, you choose the times when you receive class materials. Perhaps that will occur by going to a Web site to view the materials or by watching a lecture on videotape. Also keep in mind that some distance courses involve periodic trips to campus or other central location, most often for testing and labs. Information about the course schedule is available in the description.

If your schedule is predictable, then you can probably fit in either type of class. If your schedule is not very predictable, then a synchronous class may be problematic for you. If you can rarely plan your day, then an asynchronous class is still an option - you can do your coursework when time permits.  Just make sure there are available hours sometime during the week to complete your work.

How are your reading and writing skills?

Most distance learning courses rely heavily on written communications. Assigned readings supplemented by videos and written discussions are the primary methods of instruction. You need to be comfortable with written materials and directions. Also, because most of the communication between yourself and the instructor or classmates is written (email or discussion forums), you must feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and opinions in writing.

Thanks for taking the assessment! Ultimately, you are the only person who can judge whether you are a good candidate for a distance-delivered course or program. We hope these questions and answers helped to make you think about the important differences between traditional education and distance education.