Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
. Even though the skills needed for distance learning are basically the same as those needed for in class learning, there are a few skills that are especially important for distance learners. If you are interested in distance learning but donít have all of these skills, do not give up on distance learning. You can learn these skills. Just make sure that you begin to develop the skills now. Donít wait until you start a course. Here are five skills that are vital for distance learners.
This is one of the most important skills required. That is because most distance education is offered using online courses and other courses use some combination of other methods along with online work. Basic computer skills, such as turning a computer on and off, saving files, and using word processing programs are an absolute necessity. Other computer skills necessary for online learning are: knowing how to use e-mail, how to attach files to the e-mail, use your printer, how to participate in chats, listen to audio and sometimes video presentations, how to log onto your course, how to download information, how to allow a website through your firewall and how to use the internet.
Usually you are learning from home or work and have many more distractions than would occur in a classroom. Therefore you need to be able to organize your time so that you have the least number of distractions and yet do allow enough time to work on the course(s) that you are studying. You need to know what the expectations of the course are such as when assignments are due, how often you must participate in discussions, when tests and exams are scheduled, and when readings are expected to be done. Then you need to schedule your time so that all the work and preparation for those activities are spread out over the whole term rather than trying to catch up all at once or missing a deadline for an assignment.
It is necessary to plan your work space and how you will use that space. You need to plan what tools, such as notebooks, pens, folders etc. you will need, and have them readily accessible to that work area. Using those computer skills to file information efficiently and learning how to quickly access the components of your course will make your work easier.
The two most important of these skills for distance learning are reading and writing. Reading is essential for the course notes, the discussion boards, the textbook(s), e-mail communications from teachers and other students, and for your online and library research. The writing skills will be used for communicating on the discussion boards, for e-mails you send to students and instructors, and for most assignments.
The skill of recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses is essential. If you are lacking some of the above skills, but are willing to learn them, then you will be able to use distance learning to your advantage. However, if you know you are unable to manage time well because you are a procrastinator or if you know you will hate to do so much work at a computer or you like talking but you hate writing, perhaps you should consider attending a bricks and mortar institution to match your strengths rather than attempting to change your weaknesses. Learning computer skills is possible but changing the way that you like to do your learning is much more difficult if not impossible.
So, if you have all of the above skills, choose your school and your course and sign up. If you need to brush up on some of those skills, then start working on them now and while working on them, choose your school and course and sign up. Remember we are all constantly learning.