Tips for Making your first Distance Learning Experience a Success

For any student being lured in by the appeal of the distance learning method for the pursuit of their educational goals, there is bound to be a certain level of ambivalence at first.  After all, traditional educational delivery systems chart your course pretty clearly right from the start.  You know where to go and when to be there.  The instructor is a physical presence who makes it easy to understand what the expectations are and what the timetable is for completing those goals.  Traditional education is, for lack of a better word, comfortable. 

Distance learning, on the other hand, brings with it an aura of mystery and uncertainty.  The freedom that comes from being in control of your educational destiny can produce both a sense of power and an overwhelming feeling of despair.  Until you’ve actually experienced a distance learning course successfully, you may always be wondering if you’re meeting expectations.  In order to take control of your first distance learning course, consider a few preparation techniques:

1)  Make sure to order any textbooks or other educational materials as soon as you register for the course.  If you require a textbook that you are ordering online, you may have to wait a week or two for it to arrive.  You don’t want to start the semester without your basic textbooks.

2)  Download the course syllabus as soon as it becomes available.  Most classes will make the first week’s information available a few days before the actual start date for the course.  This gives eager students (like you) the chance to get a jump on things.

3)  Yes, it’s true you have the freedom to work at your own pace – up to a point.  Your course syllabus will probably be broken down into weekly segments to give you a path to follow in order to stay on track.  Start reading and working on assignments the first week.  It is amazing how quickly you can fall behind if you don’t.  You may not be in a classroom but you still need to make steady progress towards understanding each week’s lecture material and completing your work on time.

4)  Make contact with the course instructor early on in the course, ideally within the first few days.  Make it a point to interact regularly with the instructor.  The benefits of this are twofold: a) building a strong relationship with your cyber instructor will ensure you are a recognized member of the class, and b) your instructor will be better able to recognize, and assist, if you are having problems in the class.  They may be able to see a problem even before you recognize one.

5)  Determine how you intend to fit study time into your hectic life.  Students who pursue education through the distance learning method often do so because this is the only method that fits into their time-crunched lives.   You still need to set aside specific blocks of study time to be successful.

6)  Reach out to your fellow classmates.  There will be plenty of opportunities for interactive chat and possibly even research with other students.  Just as in traditional classroom settings, this interaction between students greatly adds to the educational process and reduces the feeling of isolation.

Distance learning is a modern day method of educational delivery that has a lot to offer for many students.  Whether you are about to embark on your first distance learning class or your fourteenth, you should look forward to a rewarding experience as you use the tools of cyber education to expand your knowledge and your study skills.