Prospective Students

Is Distance Education Right for You?

Not everyone should take an online course. Online learners must be very motivated, self-directed and goal-oriented. You may be required to work alone from week to week, setting your own schedule to complete the work on time, or you may be given weekly assignments with specific due dates. Although online course are often more convenient and easier to fit in your schedule than a classroom course, students often find they spend more time doing work for an online course than they do for a classroom course.

Here is some information on what it takes to succeed in a Distance Education course:

The key to being a successful online learner lies in hard work and communication. Some students mistakenly think that because they do not go to class, an online course will take less time to complete than a regular course. In reality, you can expect to spend at least three times as much time on a Distance Education course as you would attending class for a traditional course. In other words, if you take a class that normally meets three times a week for an hour at a time, you can expect to spend at least three times that, or a minimum of nine hours per week working on your online course. This time includes your regular study time (twice the classroom time) as well as time for activities to complete instead of class attendance. Also, since you do not see your instructor every two or three days in class to get immediate answers to your questions, it is important that you use the communication tools available to ask your questions online as soon as they arise. Your instructor may only check email or discussion postings every few days, so you may wait before getting a response.

  1. Don't procrastinate. Probably the biggest mistake a distance learner can make is waiting until the last minute to get the work done. Just as in a classroom course, assignments have due dates and tests must be taken at a certain time, so waiting too long may mean you get a zero for that grade. Problems also arise with the technology, so waiting until 11:00 p.m. to take a test that must be completed by midnight is a bad idea. Your Internet access may fail or your power may go out, or any of a number of other things could go wrong that are not in your control, but your instructor may be a lot more sympathetic to giving you a second chance to complete a test if you have tried to complete the assignment ahead of schedule than if you waited until the last minute.
  2. Get started right away. It is important that you log on to your on-line course as soon as possible after the start of classes. Do not wait a week or more thinking you have lots of time before that first test is due. You may have problems logging on to your online course that could take a few days to resolve, and by that time, the due date has come and gone. Logging on the first day or two of the semester gives you time to resolve any access issues before they become critical.
  3. Schedule time to work on your course. By scheduling time every day to work on your course, you avoid the 'I'll get to it tomorrow' pitfall. At a minimum, you should log on to your course to check email or other messages from your instructor. You should plan on completing some work in the course at least every other day. Any less than that, and you run the risk of falling behind.
  4. Communicate with your fellow students. An advantage of an online course over a classroom course is your ability to use the technology to communicate with other students in your class at any time. If you have a question about something in the course, chances are good a fellow classmate has had ' or will have ' the same question. Sometimes an explanation from a fellow student is easier to understand than one from your instructor, because the student had to figure it out the same way you do.
  5. Communicate with your professor. Ultimately your professor is going to be able to help you the most in completing the course. If he or she offers online office hours in the chat room, attend as many as possible. Even if you do not have any questions at the time, reading the questions and answers from your fellow students may still be helpful. Check your course email frequently as well as messages on the course discussion board. Your instructor may use those tools to communicate information to the entire class. Check the course calendar for due dates on assignments and quizzes set up by your instructor.
  6. Do all of the work. That may seem obvious, but it sometimes online students do not take advantage of all the learning opportunities available to them. If your instructor gives you practice quizzes or extra-credit quizzes in addition to the regular exams, do them. Those activities give your opportunities not only to practice using the technology, but also to apply you knowledge in a less 'high-stakes' activity.
  7. Be honest with yourself. If you are not able to follow the above guidelines, then an online course may not be right for you. There are many other options for taking courses at LCCC, including day, evening and weekend classes at our main campus or at one of our dedicated sites or off-campus locations. One of those might be better for you to complete your education successfully.

Before you register for an online course, take these self-assessments to see if Distance Education is right for you: