Does On-Line Learning Fit You?

To know if distance learning fits you, you need to examine how you learn best. Because the internet is so individualized and flexible, courses can be developed to meet individualized educational styles and needs. Technology in the on-line classroom can mean streaming-video lectures in real time, to instructorless simulations, to e-mail intense university courses that require students to read and research information. Students can pick the format that best suits them.

Some on-line learning basics

  • You need access to a computer and the internet. See Technical Requirements*
  • You need to feel comfortable using the computer, typing and reading.
  • You need to be comfortable trying out new situations and technologies, asking questions, handling one-on-one dialogue with peers and instructors, being able to work independently, learning through reading and understanding that on-line courses will be as demanding as traditional classes.
  • You need to enjoy the freedom and responsibility of choosing daily when to attend class and when to study.
  • Or maybe you are the type that has a busy schedule and can’t fit the course you want into your routine so you have gone the distance learning route.
  • If you are the type that looks forward to the exchange of ideas and benefits from direct feedback from instructors and from class members or from simply writing to help organize your thoughts, this method could be for you.
  • Distance learning is ideal for those who feel shy about speaking up in a lecture hall and are more likely to ask questions in this electronic environment.

Technical Requirements

What technical tools are necessary for e-learning? Most on-line learning needs an internet browser and a connection to the internet. These technologies are the enabler of effective distance education.

Computer and Hardware – any laptop or tablet will work fine, the higher the quality, the more seamless the technology will seem. Students who wish to use audio and video systems will require higher computational speed and processing memory. The recommended is laptop running Windows 8 or MacBook with reliable access to the internet with either Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari Web Browser installed.

The internet connection and type reflects the speed of communicating and downloading educational information. A student may be connected to an academic or business network, or through a cable modem or a DSL phone line. The larger the bandwidth, the more seamless the experience. Many institutions have private networks that offer wide fast bandwidth.

Students are generally not required to buy software, and most course specific software is provided for free. In addition, most on-line programs offer free orientation classes, which assure that students are technically prepared for the course. Students will still need to have an operating system and general software tools such as text processor. Sometimes free plug-in software programs are needed such as: Windows Media or Real Player, Macromedia Flash, QuickTime and Chat Services.

Through the use of Instructor Web Pages, teachers can build a virtual classroom with class information such as the syllabus, exercises, literature references and the instructor’s biography. It may include useful resource links to other web sites and administrative links, such as, access library catalogs and a students’ individual home pages.

Some distance courses include Instructional Television (ITV), which can be either passive or interactive; many systems are compressed digital video over high speed bandwidth which is well beyond the range of the common modem internet connection. These systems are similar to video conferencing or pre-recordered broadcasting. When a course requires this technology, students are offered a location to receive ITV services.

On-line learning uses generally accepted interactive technology such as e-mail, social networks, chats, boards and forums.