Tips for distance learning


Regina Faircloth, Lamp staff

As an older, full-time student, who also drives a truck over the road, I’m extremely grateful for the availability of online classes. I work between 50 and 60 hours a week, and I’ve been a distance learner for three years. 

I remember a time when the only way to take college-level classes was to go to college and sit in a traditional classroom. If not for the accessibility of courses online, many of us would be stuck in low-paying jobs or forever working multiple jobs to (barely) make ends meet, without a chance to improve our circumstances.  

There are many reasons distance learning works better for some students. Work and family priorities can make it difficult to attend traditional classes. A demanding work schedule, social anxiety, physical limitations due to illness or the need to be home to care for small children or disabled and/or elderly family members might hamper one’s ability to attend collegeSome students may not have reliable transportation to school. For those of us who cannot attend traditional classes, for whatever reason, distance learning is a blessing. It is the gateway to earning our degree, and we are very grateful for the opportunity. 

For students who are considering taking their first online class, there are some basic tips to follow to ensure success.   


For one, don’t start an online class with the attitude that it will be easier than traditional classes. They are more convenient, but not easier.  


Each professor has their own rules and due dates, and most of them are strict about those. The virtual classroom is the professor’s domain. It’s a good idea to read your syllabus and class schedule thoroughly the first day they’re posted on Blackboard. Although some instructors are flexible in considering excuses for tardiness (sickness or family emergencies) students are required to adhere to the professor’s schedule outlined in the syllabus; they do not have to accommodate the student’s schedule in any way.  


Lastly, distance learning requires some proficiency in using computers and the Internet. Most of the classes will have an access code to an e-bookStudents log in to another account after blackboard to do the assigned reading and lessons. Using wireless Internet can be problematic. For example, if you use WiFi and are disconnected during a quiz or test, you likely won’t get a second chance to take it 


 Time management is essential to succeed in a virtual classroom. Plan your assignments, quizzes, and midterm projects ahead of their due dates to stay current.  


Communication is imperative, as well. If you run into an issue and are not able to complete an assignment on time, it’s important to get ahead of things by communicating with your instructor. Each professor has a preferred means of communication; email, text, online messaging, or phone. Office hours vary widely, so if you want to speak to them in person, schedule it ahead of time via another means of communication.  

If you are highly organized, disciplined, and can adhere to the various due dates by working ahead of schedule during your available free time, you can be successful in Blackboard. However, if you tend to procrastinate and are not sure how to prioritize schoolwork over hobbies, Netflix, or leisure activities, you may want to take traditional classes in order to stay focused. 

For me, distance learning has been an exercise in forcing myself not to procrastinate, to be flexible, and to accommodate each professor’s teaching style and schedule requirements while finding enough time in my schedule to actually absorb the material. Ultimately, we’re here to learn, right?