Is Distance Learning Right for Me?

The following quiz is designed to show you what skills are necessary for distance learning courses and to offer you a chance to rate yourself on those skills. Take the test and then read the explanations of each of the skills tested.

Rating Yourself as a Distance Learner

Answer these questions by grading your study behaviors. Read the question and think about whether the statements are true of you. If the statement is always true of you, put an "A" in the blank that says "my grade." If the statement is not always true of you, then choose from the grades B, C, D, F and assign the grade that you think best represents your actual study behavior. An "F" would indicate that you would rarely or never study that way.

  Study Behavior My Grade
1. When I read a textbook chapter, I am able to maintain good concentration and know what steps to take to remember what I need to know.  
2. I do not fall behind in my class assignments. I do not procrastinate.  
3. When I read or when I take notes or when I am listening to material, I am aware of whether or not I am understanding the material. If I do not understand, I know what to do to improve my comprehension.  
4. I know how to get ready for exams. I know the difference between preparing for an objective test and an essay test. I feel that I am "test-wise" - that is, I understand how to get the most points possible on any exam.  
5. I do not feel anxiety or panic during an exam to the extent that it interferes with my thinking.  
6. My writing skills are good enough for any writing assignment that I might be given. I can write a research paper, a summary of an article, a book review, etc.  
7. I feel that my background knowledge (previous experience with the concepts and vocabulary of a course) is okay for the course I am taking.  
8. I understand how to get the most from the study materials I have purchased or was provided for my course-textbook, study guide, syllabus, etc.  
9. I have enough time to get my course assignments done; my work, school, family and social responsibilities do not conflict.  
10. I am a self-starter. I can work on my own and follow a schedule of my own making. I do not need the stimulus of other students or of being face to face with my instructor to keep me involved in my course.  

Scoring Your Ratings

If you have mostly "A" grades with one or two "B" grades, you are probably doing well in your courses. The explanations below list the reasons that these skills are important for you. 

Question 1.

As a distance learning student you will be asked to do lots of reading from textbooks on your own. It is very important for you to understand how to process the information in a textbook so that you can understand and remember what you have read.

Question 2.

Falling behind in course work is the biggest problem for distance learners!! There is generally a lot of work to be done and if you ever get behind, it is very difficult to catch up. Both students and faculty report that getting behind in assignments is consistently the reason for making low grades. Get a copy of your syllabus and keep it with you; schedule your work out on your daily calendar; KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO AND WHEN YOU HAVE TO DO IT.

Question 3.

This question deals with a very important skill. This is being able to evaluate and monitor your own learning as it is happening. Your success will be determined by the action you take when you realize you are not understanding something. To be successful, find a new or different way to approach the material. Consistently monitor your understanding to make sure you are getting what you need from the material.

Unsuccessful students are either not aware that they are not getting the information or do not know any other way to approach the material. How often have you heard someone say "I read the assignment but I didn't understand it."? Often students just accept "not knowing" and don't take steps to clear up their confusion.

In educational psychology, personal monitoring and evaluation is called metacognition. To put it very simply - metacognitive awareness is "thinking about your thinking". It's like stepping outside yourself and observing and evaluating your study performance - and then taking steps to improve that performance.

Question 4.

This question deals with all aspects of test taking. Preparing for objective (often multiple choice) exams is different from preparing for essay exams. Thorough preparation for the content of the test is imperative; it is also beneficial to know how to make the most of any test taking situation - to be "test-wise". This means knowing ways to optimize test performance by using common sense approaches to getting the most points possible on any exam.

Question 5.

This question deals with test anxiety. A little anxiety over a test can keep you sharp; however, a lot of anxiety can interfere with your ability to concentrate and to think clearly. If anxiety is a problem, you need to start learning ways to reduce it so that over time you can lessen its effects.

Question 6.

This question reminds you that a minimum level of writing proficiency is needed to do well in all classes and that includes distance learning classes. Often instructors will ask for certain assignments like research papers, book reviews, and/or summaries without offering any writing instruction because they expect you should already know how to do these assignments.

Question 7.

This question asks you to assess the amount of prior experience that you have had with the concepts and vocabulary of the courses you are now taking. It generally holds true that courses with which you are more familiar will be easier for you because you have a framework of knowledge into which the new information of the course can fit. If you find that you are taking courses for which you have little or no background, then you need to do something to fill in that background as much as you can. That may involve getting a book on a much lower reading level that explains some of the course fundamentals. You can read this quickly and try to fill in some of the gaps. You might even use children's or adolescent's reading material. It might be helpful to talk to your instructor and ask for advice about material to review.

Question 8.

Students often do not make the best use of the study materials they purchase - like textbooks, study guides, supplementary readers, etc. Sometimes they also don't use the materials supplied by the instructors, such as syllabi and course calendars, which are invaluable for understanding what the course requirements are, when assignments are due and the point value of the assignments.

It is definitely in your best interest to know exactly what is expected of you in your classes and how your grade for the course will be determined. This is especially important in distance learning classes. Students are expected to be self-starters; to read and use the materials they have purchased on their own with very little direction from their instructors. You should write all due dates for assignments on your own calendar. Study that syllabus so that you will know exactly what each assignment counts toward your final grade. In this way you should be able to tell what your grade average is at any point in the semester.

Question 9.

Managing your time when taking college courses is sometimes a difficult task when there are many responsibilities in your life competing for the little time there is available to do them. Generally something has to go. It is not usually possible to add schoolwork to an already full schedule and expect to make the grades you want. You have to prioritize your duties and responsibilities and let something less important slide by for a while.

You have to find time to stay on schedule with your assignments - otherwise you run the risk of getting behind.

Question 10.

As a distance learner, you need to be able to work comfortably on your own. You will need to rely on your own internal motivation to get things done. Several of the other questions in this quiz have touched on this topic - managing time, getting the most from study materials, metacognition, getting behind in assignments. The need to be self-motivated and self directed is worth repeating however. Successful distance learners are those who can create and follow their own schedules, who persist in pursuing information they need, and who use all the resources available to them.

This test is intended to be informal; it's a quick way to become familiar with the skills needed for successful distance learning.