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Last modified: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tips concerning online courses

  • Consider your own habits and preferences before you jump online as a learner, Bolin said. If potential online students have never been able to schedule themselves independently with much success, or discipline themselves to work without direct guidance from an instructor, or face the prospect of spending hours in front of the computer, they might find that online learning is simply not appropriate for them.
  • Ask yourself what you can afford to put into a course, Bolin said. Every online learning experience takes time. Students might save on the time it would take to commute to a face-to-face course, and the will probably be able to study efficiently because they can schedule their own work periods around their other demands. But learning takes time and it's important to be realistic about how much time it might take. The month that you start a new job, get a promotion, plan a wedding or move into a new home may not be the time to squeeze in an online course. Many people have no choice but to work online learning into their already busy schedules; just realize that those who do find it to be a challenge.
  • Look for information about the way online courses are developed and administered, Bolin said. Do they come from an accredited institution, or an organization with credentials in the subject matter? Who is teaching the course - a knowledgeable instructor or someone hired to administer "canned" lessons? Is there information available, online or via email or phone, about the kind of experiences students will have in the course? Are potential students encouraged to speak to current or former students if they ask to do so?
  • Ask early what the process will be for getting into an online course, Bolin said. If buying a start-anytime web course from a commercial vendor or a professional development company, students might be able to take a credit card to the Web and begin on the same day they decide to enroll. But if students are taking a course in a degree or certificate program at a college or university, they will probably need to apply and work their way through some kind of admissions process, and likely study on a semester schedule.
  • Online learning has a lot of advantages, Lorenzen-Huber said. Most adults really enjoy an opportunity to think deeply about a topic and write (and edit!) their thoughts about it. Most of her graduate courses feel like a group of close friends or a book discussion club -- Lorenzen-Huber said she really miss writing with them when the semester is over. She said there are advantages to writing over face to face meetings. I think we all feel freer to express ideas, feelings, and experiences in the relative anonymity of the online discussion forum.

Here are some Web resources: A checklist to see if online courses are suitable for you,; reports from the Sloan Consortium about online programs,

Urtel can be reached at 317-278-2015 and Lorenzen-Huber can be reached at 812-855-1733 and To speak with Bolin, contact Chuck Carney at 812-856-8027 and

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