What Does It Take to Succeed in an Internet-based College Course?

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Internet-based courses can offer a unique opportunity but do they also offer unique challenges? Every college course whether taken on campus, by traditional distance means or through a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), challenges the student academically. That is the nature of higher education. Distance study and especially
MOOCs, can make particular demands on students. Recognising these specific difficulties should allow us to identify the characteristics or skills which will aid the student. The major difference between an internet-based course and one presented in a traditional face to face environment is the physical isolation of the student. This isolation has a number of consequences. Firstly, there is less opportunity to
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Internet-based courses can offer a unique opportunity but do they also offer unique challenges? Every college course whether taken on campus, by traditional distance means or through a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), challenges the student academically. That is the nature of higher education. Distance study and especially
MOOCs, can make particular demands on students. Recognising these specific difficulties should allow us to identify the characteristics or skills which will aid the student. The major difference between an internet-based course and one presented in a traditional face to face environment is the physical isolation of the student. This isolation has a number of consequences. Firstly, there is less opportunity to get direct feedback to queries. In a lecture or seminar a student will, at least in principle, have the opportunity to seek immediate advice if they do not understand the material presented. In an online learning environment such contact will tend to be through discussion forums. Using such channels requires some confidence in communicating via written messages as well as the ability to make judgements as to the validity of input from peers.

A second aspect of isolation is one of motivation. In a traditional campus-based course a student will be one of a number enrolled on a programme. The students will typically have some regular contact from instructional staff as well as social contacts within the group. Combined with a fixed