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How To Give Distance Learning a Try with Free Online Classes


Teenage boy using laptop outdoors
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Many students are interested in distance learning, but not quite ready to risk their tuition money. If you’re still on the fence, you may be able to get a feel for virtual studies by taking a free online class.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 4 weeks +

Here's How:

  1. Record your expectations. Before beginning, make a list of your distance learning expectations. Do you expect to enjoy studying independently? Plan to save time? Record all of the hopes you have for online learning.
  2. Record your concerns. Distance learning isn’t for everyone, and it’s important that you consider any concerns you may have. Do you worry that you won’t be motivated or that you’ll miss in-person interaction? Make a note of it.
  3. Select a class. Choose a free online class on a subject that interests you personally or on a topic that will help you professionally. There are many types of free online classes available. But, it’s best to choose one that mimics the workload and schedule of a for-credit course. Many colleges offer OpenCourseWare materials from real classes, including readings and assignments.
  4. Follow the syllabus to complete assignments. While taking the free online class, pretend that your work is being graded. Set a schedule for yourself and try to meet the deadlines. Free online classes can be enjoyable and enlightening, but you also want to make sure that you’ll be able to meet the requirements of a traditional distance learning environment.
  5. Evaluate your experience. Once your free online class is completed, review the lists you created in steps one and two. Did online learning meet your expectations? Were your concerns resolved? If you were unmotivated and failed to meet the requirements, online classes may not fit your learning style. If you enjoyed the free online class and were able to complete the assignments on time, it may be a sign that distance learning is a good fit. Although the basics are the same, be aware that traditional courses often have advantages such as a more complete curriculum, a reachable instructor, and interactive exercises.
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