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Five Skills Emphasized by Online Learning

Many students find the flexibility and diversity of online courses appealing, but online learning also emphasizes a number of skills that prospective students should have (or should be able to build) to excel in this class format. These skills include:

  1. Flexibility
The flexibility of online learning is a large part of its appeal, but it’s important to note that it also requires flexibility from its students. Online education uses different strategies and tools than traditional in-person education, and online learners must be open to these potentially unfamiliar methods, as well as willing to go outside their comfort zone.
  1. Time management
Online students may point to flexible scheduling as the greatest advantage of online learning. But this flexibility also means that you carry more responsibility for managing your own schedule. Success in online education is nearly impossible to achieve without proper time management. You may not have a specific timeframe for your course, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dedicate certain times each week to particular classes. You should also be aware of your scheduling restrictions and be realistic about how many courses you can take. Online learning is all about working with your own schedule, but as the master of that schedule, you must manage your time well.
  1. Self-motivation and the ability to work independently
In some online classes, you may not have set deadlines for assignments. Perhaps they’re all due on the last day of the semester, but it is still wise to avoid waiting until the last minute to complete an entire semester’s worth of work. Self-motivation and the ability to work independently are critical in online education, as you must be able to complete your work without the benefit of hard deadlines.
  1. Communication
As is obvious by now, the ball is often in your court when it comes to online learning—not just to finish assignments and to manage your schedule, but also to communicate with your instructor. He or she may make him- or herself available to you, but may not reach out as often as an in-person teacher might. You must take the initiative to open the lines of communication and to ask for help when you need it. Communication skills can extend to multiple aspects of online education, including reaching out to fellow students to discuss a reading or to complete a project.
  1. Critical thinking
While you may participate in discussion boards as part of an online course, you will not have the typical group conversations that are often part of an in-person class. This means that you may need to spend more time thinking critically about the material and how to interpret it. Ultimately, online learning focuses on independence and the various skills associated with it, like time management, strong and frequent communication, and critical thinking. Perhaps you already possess these skills, which may make you a natural fit for online education. But even if you don’t, online learning is a great way to improve and master these abilities. Catherine Martin is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.

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