Afraid your personality won’t fit the world of online learning? Don’t worry, experts say, online education doesn’t require any special skills you wouldn’t already use in a regular classroom.
Tricia Donovan is director of eCampusAlberta, a consortium of 15 publicly funded colleges and technical institutes in Alberta offering online courses and programs. She says the common idea that online learners have to be more driven and self-sufficient than in-class learners because of the technical requirements is a myth.
“A lot of the literature will say that people who are self-motivated and driven fit best into online learning but our experience is that motivation itself is enough for any educational program. If you can search the web you have all the technical ability required to complete an online education,” Donovan said.
If there is a personality trait that gives you an advantage, it’s time management. Dr. Keith Hampson, director of digital education strategies at Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School, says the lack of scheduled in-class work periods means online students often need to manage time well.
“Most online courses are set up so that students can have a great deal of control over when they do work, by and large that is a benefit, but it can also be a challenge. In the classroom, a schedule is provided for you — online, some students find they need to develop a schedule themselves,” Hampson said.
Before you commit
Test it out: Most reputable online programs will let you try out a class or two to see if you like what you see and then cancel with a full refund if you don’t — check each school’s policies first, though.
Do you have what it takes?
Online courses involve a lot more idea-sharing than a classroom setting. “The web experience can in many ways be more exploratory than what most people get in class — online courses have very strong application to the way business actually works today,” said Edward Carson, associate director of the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.