University of Minnesota

Is Online Learning Right for You?

Online learning isn't the best option for everyone. Your learning style, comfort with technology, and motivation for taking courses all affect your online learning experience. You should consider several factors in determining if online learning is right for you.

Technology skills and availability

Another factor to consider is your comfort with technology and the availability of technology in your everyday life.

Do you feel comfortable using computers? You will need to work independently when taking online courses, including working on the technology required for your course on your own.

Do you have access to a computer at home, with a regular connection to the internet? Many of your assignments will be online, requiring a steady connection to the internet. It would be nearly impossible to take an online course without a computer and the internet at home.

Does your home computer have basic software such as a word processor (i.e. Microsoft Word), a pdf reader (i.e., Adobe Reader), and a media player (iTunes, Windows Media, RealPlayer, Quicktime) installed on it? You will need all of the software listed above, and possibly more, for your online course. To find out if you need additional software for the course, contact the instructor.

Do you feel comfortable using common software programs like word processors, internet browsers, and email programs? These are the most common types of software needed in online courses. If you are not comfortable with the software, consider taking a non-credit course that will introduce you this software before signing up for an online class.

Do you feel comfortable communicating with others via tools such as email, chat, wikis, blogs, and online discussions? When you take an online course, you will need to write often, in emails, chat, wikis, blogs, and discussion forums, in order to communicate your ideas and questions about the course work.

You should have answered "yes" to nearly all of these questions if you wish to pursue your education online. Review the resources for online learners to learn ways to improve your comfort level with technology.

Personal Motivation and Time Management

Most students enrolled in online programs also have jobs outside the home and have family obligations. Completing a degree online requires a great deal of focus and motivation in order to be successful. Minnesota Online has put together a resource to help students assess if online learning is a good fit for their learning goals and styles. Review the section on focus for helpful information on multitasking and maintaining focus while working on the computer.

Everyone has a personal approach to time management. Do you plan out each step or develop a plan a few steps ahead? Is it easy for you to start projects or do you find starting a new project overwhelming? It is helpful to understand how you approach time management so you can understand the areas of strength in your approach and the areas where you can strengthen your skills. Portland State University has a useful self-assessment for time-management skills (scroll to the middle of the page).


Tips from students

Online learners share tips and ideas for being successful learners online.

Resources to improve your skills

There are additional resources available, both at the University and elsewhere, to help you improve your study skills and technology skills.

Contact Digital Campus

Questions? You can reach the Digital Campus Support Center via:

Phone: 1-800-991-8636
Mon - Fri, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm