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How to be a Successful Distance Student

The biggest difference in distance education is that you do not have the classroom experience which usually provides an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with your instructor and other students and a time/place structure. That means you are free from attendance requirements of a regular class, but it also means that you probably will interact electronically and you have to be more self-reliant.

  1. Set a time and place to study.
    You need a schedule, and the more strictly you can keep to it, the more likely you will be successful in your studies. If you set aside time for study--for example, Tuesday evening and Sunday afternoon--be very diligent with yourself about studying during that time. Invest in an answering machine or unplug the phone if that will help reduce interruptions. After just a few weeks, you will find that you automatically head for the books at the appointed time. Following a strict schedule, you don't have to waste energy finding time to study and you can get to work quickly.

    Your schedule will work best if you have a regular place to study. The public library is one option as is a local college library. You can make a place to study at home too, and it will be best if the place is primarily used for study. The same recliner in which you watch television is not the best place to sit for serious study--you associate that place with relaxation. A regular study place, consistently used early on, will have the same effect on your work habits as a regular study time. Also, as much as possible, keep all books, papers, and supplies for your school work in one place. If it makes it possible for you to sit down and immediately get to work without hunting for a notebook, it will be worthwhile.

  2. Set deadlines.
    Divide the amount of work required for your courses by the number of months you have to complete them. This gives you a schedule and a series of deadlines to guide your pace through the course work. Suppose the course you are taking has four exams and you have one year to complete the course. You should plan to take one exam every two months. This will allow you some extra time for emergencies. If each exam covers six chapters, then you must study three chapters each month. Breaking the work down into months or weeks will enable you to set manageable, intermediate goals and will keep you on schedule. Doing the work at an even pace will also give you time to ask questions of your instructor if graded work is returned to you that you do not understand.

Who Are the Students Who Learn by Distance Education?

Students who enroll in distance education often share many characteristics. Distance students tend to be:

  • More than 25 years old
  • Employed
  • Former college students
  • Highly motivated. Successful distance learners are self-motivators who do not require regular reminders from the instructor or their classmates in order to meet deadlines. They have the discipline to establish a regular study schedule and set aside time daily or on specific days during the week for course work.