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Is Online Learning Right for You?

Distance Learning provides educational opportunities that are not limited to the time and space constraints of traditional classes. Online instructors use a wide variety of tools such as online lectures, assignments, tests, discussion forums, internet articles and streaming video. 

Earning college credit by taking online courses is convenient and flexible, but is not for everyone. Responsible study habits and the ability to learn independently are necessary to successfully complete online courses.

Review the following information to see if online courses are right for you and to improve the skills needed for success.


Successful online students tend:

  • to be good at setting goals and deadlines for themselves.

  • to finish projects that they start.

  • not to quit just because things get difficult.

  • to be able to keep themselves on track and on time.

  • to have a good reason for taking an online course.

Even if you fit well with these characteristics, prior to starting an online course you may want to visit the Time Management resource page to improve your abilities.

Frequent misconceptions regarding online learning:

Myth: Student often think that if they don’t have time for a face-to-face class, an online course would be a good alternative.


Not having enough time for a face-to-face class is not a good reason to take an online class. While online classes can offer you greater scheduling flexibility, they can be more demanding and require a greater commitment of your time. Extensive reading requirements and time management for assignment deadlines are required to succeed in an online class.

Myth: If I just remember to log into my online class, I’ll do OK.


In an online environment, students must assume a greater responsibility for their learning. They must communicate effectively and be organized, self-disciplined, and willing to ask for help and incorporate constructive feedback.

Myth: I’ll be all on my own to complete my online course.


Working independently is not the same thing as working alone. Online classes are not a lonely endeavor. On the contrary, through regular discussions and participation, students are immersed in a community of online learners. Independent learning means students need to take the initiative to keep on track with their course readings, activities, discussion posts, assignments, and other course expectations. When they have questions or difficulties, they reach out to the instructor with plenty of time to spare.

Learning preferences

Successful online students tend to:

  • have good reading skills & and learn well from reading

  • learn well from things they hear such as lectures, audio recordings or podcasts

  • learn equally well in group settings or on their own

  • be comfortable when figuring things out themselves

Even if you feel good about your learning preferences, you may want to review these Active Reading and Problem Solving tutorials before starting an online course.

Frequent misconceptions regarding online learning:

Myth: Students enrolled in online course often believe they do not have to read course material or have shortened the learning process by not attending class lectures required in a face-to-face course.


Reading all course material and completing all course assignments is critical to the learning process in an online course. This can be a large commitment for many students.

Myth: Students often think an instructor posts too much information and that it is not important to read everything.


In an online course, an instructor can only communicate with students by posting information. If students don’t read all instructor communication, they will likely miss something important.

Myth: Instructors will tell me exactly what I need to do.


When first entering an online course, students encounter multiple Web pages explaining the course organization, instructor’s expectations, and types of assignments they’ll be assigned. Instructors anticipate there will be questions regarding this information, but students must ask the questions. If they don’t ask, the instructor assumes they fully understand the course expectations.

Study habits

Successful online students tend to:

  • Schedule specific times throughout the week for working on class assignments

  • Prepare a work space conducive to focused study

  • Create your own deadlines for the semester so assignments are completed before the actual deadline

  • Admit when you need help and then contact their instructor with your questions

  • Utilize the support services provided by the college

  • Use cloud services to store your coursework to ensure you have a backup and can work from any machine

  • Take study breaks

Even if you feel good about your study habits, you may want to review these Note Taking and Improving Study Habits tutorials before starting an online course.

Frequent misconceptions regarding online learning:

Myth: Students often believe they can learn course material and complete assignments in one evening and sometimes at the last moment.


It is difficult for students to be successful in a class when they only log in once every week or two. Most students learn best when they learn smaller amounts of material, then reflect on that material before learning more. Additionally, many instructors require regular participation in online discussions a few times a week.

Myth: Students often think they can schedule completing assignments around their work or personal schedule in an online course.


The instructor requires students to complete course assignments according to a weekly schedule. In addition, online instructors often do not accept late assignments.

Myth: Students often think all questions will be answered through the course material provided online or that they can email the instructor the evening prior to assignment due dates with last minute questions.


The instructor cannot predict their students’ needs, so communication is very important. However, your instructor is not available 24/7 and may not respond to last-minute questions.

Your hardware and technology access

Successful online students should:

  • Have reliable access to a computer with a recent operating system.

  • Have reliable access to a printer.

  • Have access to a fairly fast, reliable Internet connection.

  • Have virus protection software running on their computer.

  • Have headphones or speakers and a microphone for their computer.

  • Have a browser installed that will play several common multimedia (video and audio) formats.

Frequent misconceptions regarding online learning:

Myth: Students assume that the PSCC helpdesk will assist them with problems with their personal computers, printers, and devices.


The PSCC helpdesk will help students with problems with only PSCC computers and other devices.

Myth: Online instructors know that technology is “iffy” and accept late work without penalty.


Most online instructors will not accept technical difficulties on the assignment due date as a legitimate excuse for missing an assignment deadline; waiting until the last minute to submit assignments is not a good idea.

Computer Skills

Successful online students should be able to:

  • send and receive emails with attachments

  • create and save documents from a variety of software applications

  • navigate the internet online with a browser

  • change basic system configurations and control panels (such as adjusting audio and screen resolution)

  • download and install system and software components (such as updates released for your computer’s operating system)

  • troubleshoot basic computer problems (especially those common with Internet connections)

  • type quickly and accurately

Frequent misconceptions regarding online learning:

Myth: Students assume that they will be able to learn Brightspace/D2L and do their first week’s assignments without knowing anything about the online environment.


The first week of online classes is a demanding time and knowing how to use Brightspace/D2L tools will allow you to concentrate on completing your assignments rather than learning how to use Brightspace/D2L.

Myth: Students assume that because they have used computers for many years that they have the skills to be successful in online courses.


Playing computer games and taking a keyboarding class may help develop some of the skills needed to be successful in an online course, but there are many more skills which are required to be successful.

For additional assistance, contact Helpdesk at:

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