Online education has become a popular topic of conversation across the country. Even before the global pandemic, nearly 1 in 5 college students reported that they had taken at least one course online. The massive adoption of online education during 2020 has only accelerated these trends and has inspired many students to ask if online education might be right for them, even as more traditional learning forms begin to return.
Online education opens many doors for students, empowering them to complete their studies on a more flexible schedule that is often friendlier towards other obligations, such as existing jobs or childcare. “Should I go to college online?” is a question many students are asking themselves. It helps to review important criteria that provide a good indication that a particular student is ready to become an online student.
What is Online School Like?
Online college will have many similarities with more traditional learning environments. Instructors will create content-rich courses that students can engage with and examine the material presented to prepare them for their degrees. Students have tests and papers to determine their understanding of the material along with opportunities to work on group projects with other students and create networks of peers through their school.
However, since online school can often be completed on an independent schedule, many students find that they need greater amounts of discipline to ensure they stay on top of course material. Without the physical act of having to attend classes and engage with the professor and fellow students in real life, it can be easy to get more distracted during class time or fall behind on the course material.
Online education offers some tremendous opportunities for students who want to earn degrees with greater flexibility and with the ability to read and study at home or another location of choice. This requires some unique characteristics and preparation steps.
Signs you are ready to become an online student
Are you ready to become an online student? Maybe, especially if …
You have the organizational skills needed to excel
To excel in an online learning environment, you will need to have quality organizational skills. Not only do you need to keep track of the dates and times of lectures, projects, exams, and papers without the visual triggers and personal reminders you would get in an in-person environment, but you also need to make sure that you have the space needed to study and keep track of all your books and materials. Students studying in person might find themselves walking over to their library when needed, attending lectures in a focused hall or classroom, and meeting up with fellow students for meals. This does not happen online, so you need to be organized to create a study space and schedule that benefits you.
You are self-disciplined in your studies
Without the external forces that drive your studies found in-person, you need to make sure that you have the self-discipline to keep yourself on track. Regularly logging into your classroom and any discussion forums offered for the section can make it easier to track important dates and keep you on top of the material. Before you make the commitment to online learning, make sure you have the self-discipline to will drive you to succeed.
You can remain focused in classes and on your studies
When you attend a class from the comfort of your couch, potential distractions abound. With your email open alongside the lecture and the fridge right in the other room, it becomes easy to find reasons and excuses to step away from the class for just a moment and lose track of what is going on. When you log in to attend classes, you need to make sure you will have the discipline to remain focused on the material in front of you throughout the presentation.
You are willing to ask for help
With a digital class, there are no options to hang back after class to speak to a professor privately about a question regarding the material. Instead, you need to make more of an effort, connecting with the instructor through emails or their other preferred means of communication. If you want to thrive in a digital learning environment, make sure you feel comfortable asking questions if they should arise, reassuring yourself that you will not allow misunderstandings to fester.
You are self-motivated
There are two main types of motivation—internal and external. External motivation helps to entice people towards specific desired behavior through outside rewards or punishments. Internal motivation, however, comes from the person’s individual goals and dreams that help to drive them to complete the task at hand.
Online learners will perform best if they carry a high degree of self-motivation. Since they will have to work particularly hard at remaining on task and keeping up with the schedule of classes and assignments, those who do not have self-motivation to finish the degree or program will begin to struggle with completing their goals.
You know that flexibility and freedom will benefit you
For many prospective students, the freedom and flexibility offered by virtual learning sound particularly enticing. Going to college online allows them to take classes when their schedules allow and study on their own time. For some students, however, this level of freedom and flexibility can be detrimental to their studies, resulting in students who end up procrastinating. Before becoming an online student, you should carefully consider whether this level of freedom and flexibility is for you. Will it benefit you and your learning style? Or will make it harder for you to reach your goals?
You enjoy virtual interaction
To succeed in an online learning environment, you also need to make sure that you actually enjoy virtual interaction. Classrooms and interacting with other students offer many benefits for students, including the ability to form study groups, network, and work together on group projects. If your classroom is digital, chances are that many of these interactions will be online, as well.
A successful online student, therefore, will not mind needing to meet and coordinate with professors and fellow students via a computer. They feel comfortable scheduling mutually agreeable times to connect through one of the different video conferencing platforms.
You feel confident and comfortable with technology
As a student, you also want to make sure that you feel comfortable with the technology itself. Many digital classrooms need a few different components, and teachers may use a multi-featured platform or a few different platforms to answer these needs. For example, professors and students will need to be able to:
- Post and view lectures
- Manage and submit assignments
- Collaborate with fellow students
- Connect with the professor virtually
Even if you have not used a particular type of technology before, the mark of a good online student will be a willingness to experiment with it, try it out, and learn how it works. If you feel unsure navigating technological inventions and trying out new platforms, you may find it a challenge to successfully engage with online learning easily and take advantage of all that the course has to offer.
You enjoy the opportunity to learn independently
Many students find that they enjoy learning independently. From the time they were children, they enjoyed investigating, in their backyard or in books, the questions that sparked their interest. These types of students enjoy diving into new material, digesting it a bit, turning it over in their minds, and then learning how to make it their own.
Although online learning contains many of the same components as traditional learning, including access to an expert in the field and a classroom of other excited and interested students, much of online learning does consist of a self-learning environment. Conversations with professors and students generally need to be more planned and less spontaneous. If the classes themselves are recorded, instead of live, there also may not be opportunities to ask questions during the lecture itself—often these students submit questions to the professor after they watched their video.
Since students in this position do not gain the same opportunities to learn in this more group-style environment, they will engage with the material more independently.
They might watch and rewatch a lecture and pair it with readings from their books, followed by submitting questions to their professors based on the material that they struggled with. To succeed, students need to adapt to a more independent style of learning, taking ownership of the classes and the material and ensuring that they understand what they need to know.
Online learning has sparked the interest of many students for the benefits it offers. Answering the questions, ‘what is online school like’ and ‘should I go to college online,’ however, requires careful consideration of your personal traits and how ready you are to learn successfully online. If you feel attracted to the benefits of online learning and want to know more about the programs offered, reach out to us at post.edu today. Explore what online education can do for you.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!