Tips for Successful Distance Learning
Before enrolling in a course, make sure you have access to the tools
necessary to complete assignments. A word processor can help you to
organize your work and communicate your thoughts more clearly. If your
lessons appear through cable television, you'll want to know how to
program your VCR to record the programs to refer back to. Access to a fax
machine, computer with adequate hard disk space and modem for e-mail
transmission are "musts" for many classes.
Set aside a regularly scheduled time for study. If you have not been
involved in academic pursuits recently, you may find that your career,
family, hobbies, and social and civic commitments leave little time for
studying. To help you fit studying into your schedule, keep a record for a
week of how you spend your time, and then decide what you are willing to
give up. Schedule your studies for a time when you are mentally fresh and
able to devote at least one hour to your work. Think of the hour as
"reserved time." If you miss too many study periods, revise your schedule.
Where to Study
You will find it easier to focus in an appropriate environment for study.
Find a place that is free from distractions. You might consider
work--before or after hours and on your lunch hour--a public library, or a
separate room in your home.
You must comprehend and retain what you read for real learning to take
place. Reading skills can be developed by concentrating on what you read
and by taking frequent pauses to organize and review the material in your
mind. At the end of a study session, review everything you have read,
making special notes of important points. Reading a computer screen can be
hard on your eyes; it may be necessary to download hard copies of reading
assignments and communications from your instructor and coworkers.
It can be intimidating to speak into a microphone in a video or conference
call, but your communication skills are an important part of any
assignment--on the job, at home, and at school. Distance learning provides
the opportunity to enhance these skills. Pay careful attention to
instructions and be certain that you understand what is being asked. It
often helps to develop a brief outline before responding to questions
whether they are submitted in writing, via e-mail, orally, or on
video/audio tape. Organization, grammar, and the appropriate style are
important whichever medium you choose.