Making the Grade: How Can You Succeed in Distance Learning?

What kinds of skills and tools do you need to succeed in your distance education course? A variety of personal characteristics can have a potential impact on online learning success.

Facts influencing personal success

Recent research has shown that such variables as prior experience, having a computer at home, and personality produces differences in people's use of computers, which, in turn, affects their ability to get good grades in an online learning environment. In other words, the more experience a person has in using computer networks, the more likely that person will be able to mitigate the distance learning environment in a positive way.

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Gender also makes a difference in how students learn. For example, while it may be the case that in some geographic areas more males than females will spend a lot of time learning computer programming, women are more likely to participate in social network use.

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This means that female students may have an advantage in the asynchronous learning environment where frequent personal communication is necessary.

In addition to gender, other demographic factors are likely to impact on the effectiveness of online delivery. It is likely that the online learning program in which the students are enrolled (such as a Master of Business Administration, Master of International Business, Bachelor of Electronic Commerce) will play a role in their ability to succeed.

The type of program will naturally interact with a student's computer experience. For example, students enrolled in an Electronic Commerce program are more likely to be forced to take all their courses online, and, therefore, will naturally become more familiar with the technology.

Individual characteristics matter

Another demographic variable to be considered relates to the country of origin of the student. Students from different cultural or social backgrounds will likely interact in varying ways in a digital classroom. It will be necessary for some students to develop their skills in response to the needs of the program.

Finally, research has also suggested that students lacking the necessary basic skills and self-discipline may do better in a traditionally delivered mode of education. Similarly, the most motivated students may prefer to learn in an individual competitive environment.

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