Is An Online Course For Me?


The following self-assessment will help you decide whether distance education is the right choice for you. If you can answer, “yes” to these statements, distance education may be a good choice for you. Keep in mind that success in a distance education course depends on self-discipline and a willingness to interact with your instructor by computer.


Self-Assessment Check List


  1. I feel comfortable expressing my ideas, comments, and questions in writing.
  2. I feel that I have the self-discipline needed to learn without face-to-face interaction with my instructor and classmates.
  3. I have an interest in developing “virtual” partnership with faculty members and course mates at a distance.
  4. I am willing to dedicate the same amount of time and effort to a distance education course that I would to a classroom-based course.
  5. I have the necessary time-management skills that would enable me to balance distance education coursework with my professional and personal responsibilities.
  6. I am able to meet deadlines and keep track of my assignments when using the postal service or on-line file transmission.
  7. Convenience and flexibility are essential to me in pursuit of my studies.
  8. I have or can obtain access to the necessary hardware and software.
  9. I feel comfortable using technology to complete my coursework


Personal Characteristics of the Successful On-line Student


Self-directed and Self-motivated

Distance learning students need to be self-directed and self- motivated in their approach to learning. The learner has to assume a greater share of the responsibility for learning that takes place in an online environment. Professors assume the role of facilitator and guide for exploration of a subject and not the dispenser of the information.


Visual Learner

Unlike the traditional classroom where students receive auditory, visual and non-verbal input, the virtual classroom is primarily text based. Communication occurs almost solely via the written word. Print materials are the primary source of directions and information in on-line courses. Distance learning provides less opportunity for verbal interaction. Because some students learn best by listening and interacting with other students and instructors, if you are dependent upon auditory input, you could be at a severe disadvantage in an on-line course.



There are fewer ways to be noticed in an Internet class. You must make yourself known by introducing yourself, participating in discussions, and e-mailing the professor. You will have to take the initiative without the prompts provided by regular classroom interaction.


Good Writing Skills

In the virtual classroom, nearly all communication is written so it is critical that students have the ability to express themselves effectively in writing. How you communicate your ideas is the most crucial element of success in Internet courses. This is the main source of information available to the instructor. There are no non-verbal cues to send or to receive; there are no voice tones or inflections to interpret. In many instances, the instructor knows you only through your written words.



An Internet student must realize and accept that this is a different learning environment and that things will not always go as expected.  Multiple attempts may be common before tasks are successfully completed. There will be occasions when you are confused and uncertain of what to do, when you don’t fully understand something, when you have computer and or network problems. You must persist and refuse to give up when these things happen.


Problem Solver

Things will go wrong. You will be more successful if you attempt to resolve a problem that occurs rather than waiting for assistance. When you run into an obstacle, you must find solutions that allow you to fulfill course requirements. For example, if you can’t e-mail your material, send it by fax. If you can’t fax it, deliver it by hand.


Ability to Organize and Prioritize Work

On-line courses require you to structure your schedule, balancing your time around the assignments and requirements of the class. It will be important to review the things you have to do, prioritize the list and develop a schedule setting deadlines for accomplishing tasks. Then just do it.


Ability to Stay on Task

It is very easy to get distracted by the “neat” and “fun” sites and to find yourself wandering through cyberspace instead of getting your assignments finished. There are fewer external cues or prompts to return you to the task at hand like in a regular classroom setting. You will be required to preview, study, and review course material without the direct supervision of the professor or the stimulation of classroom interaction.




Computer Skills

It is important for you to have the following computer skills:

Proficiency with an Internet browser and search engines

Ability to install software

Ability to send and receive e-mail

Ability to create, save, and manage files

Proficiency in word processing.    


If you do not possess the skills mentioned above, you will have some technology to learn in addition to the curriculum of the courses you take and should make extra time in your schedule accordingly.


This Self-Assessment and list of Personal Characteristics of the Successful On-line Student is quoted from the Division of Continuing Studies at East Carolina University available online at