Is an online program the right fit for you?

These nine points will help you understand online learning and if it is the right choice for you.

1. What is online learning?

Online learning is simply being taught course material by an instructor on the internet instead of in a classroom. This means that you can take a course from any location at any time as long as you have the proper equipment, reliable internet access, and motivation to take an online course.

2. Do you enjoy working on computers and being on the internet?

This is the format in which all work is done so it’s important that you feel comfortable.

3. Are you able to learn outside of a classroom setting?

The great thing about online classes is that you can attend class from anywhere with a WiFi connection – your home, a coffee shop, the park. If you can focus and not be easily distracted, this can work for you. Some online students set up a regular study area at home for their work, even if it’s the kitchen table at 10 p.m.

4. Are you disciplined at focusing on the task at hand, organizing your study time?

This type of discipline is crucial to your success. See number 9 below for a list of traits that will help you be successful.

5. What equipment do you need?

You will need a reliable, relatively recent laptop or desktop computer and access to WiFi. You will also need an up-to-date browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Safari installed on your computer.

6. Do I need specific software?

There is not much requirement for software. Usually, you will only need the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) and Blackboard, the official TRCC course management system, both of which can be accessed online. All enrolled students are provided free access to Microsoft online through Office365 or via downloadable software. Blackboard is accessible through MyCommNet, the free online portal for the Three Rivers community. Instructions on their use are also available online. It will be important that you understand how to utilize these to ensure your success.

7. How do I communicate with my professors, classmates and the College?

Via email and Blackboard, so it is important that you know how to utilize e-mail and as well as the messaging and discussion tools provided to you by Blackboard. You will be provided a student email and email/calendar/contact software through Microsoft Office. Remember, it’s important to clearly communicate when online. There are no gestures to help you get your point across to your professor or fellow students. Your written words will need to replace eye contact, gestures and voice inflection.

8. Are online classes easier than in-class courses?

Absolutely not. Online classes are as rigorous and will take as much time to complete as traditional classes. You are learning the same material but online. In some cases, it may take more time for you to complete an online project than an in-class project.

9. What else do I need to be successful?

You have the required equipment, know how to use Word and email. Do you also have these important traits that describe a successful online learner?

  • Self-disciplined
  • Self-motivated
  • Can work alone
  • Self-starter
  • Self-directed
  • Organized
  • Achievement oriented
  • Effective at time management

If you have these traits, chances are that you will be successful. If you have some but not all, consider trying one online course and see how it goes. Otherwise, consider enrolling in a traditional on-campus program instead.