If you’re considering online courses to boost your resume, finish your degree, or switch careers, there are a few different setups and options to make the most of the experience.
Some courses are structured with specific information to be covered each week on a set schedule, while others allow you to learn at your own speed – self-paced learning. Many schools offer self-paced online college-level courses for credit, so you can get ahead while working toward your degree on your own time.
Attending college at your own pace is a great way to balance the responsibilities of life with your education, but it may not be ideal for everyone. Find out what to expect from a self-paced learning environment.
What Is Self-Paced Learning?
Online courses are more flexible than traditional courses in general, but self-paced online courses give you even more control over your learning experience. There are minimal deadlines and schedules that limit your learning experience, so you can move quickly through material that comes easily.
Most courses, traditional or otherwise, are built on layered learning – you have to have a good understanding of the material to build upon it as you move through the course. If you struggle with a topic or concept, you can take the time you need to ensure you truly grasp it before moving into the next section.
Essentially, you can leverage your individual learning strengths and abilities to get the best experience possible.
If you check these boxes, you can benefit from self-paced online college.
You Have Strong Time Management Skills
Staying organized and managing your time effectively are crucial to your success with self-paced online courses for college credit. Though you won’t be held to strict deadlines on a weekly basis, if you’re prone to procrastination, you may not finish your course in a reasonable time frame.
One of the struggles of attending self-paced college is that other things will always pop up – work obligations, family events, disruptions with children – and pull your attention. It can be easy to push off your course work each day if you don’t manage your time effectively.
Motivation is necessary for any educational experience, but particularly with a learn-at-your-own-pace college. It’s your responsibility to stay on track with your assignments, readings, quizzes, exams, and other aspects of attending classes. You won’t have a professor staying on you to get your work done.
You Understand Your Learning Style
Not everyone learns the same way. Self-paced college lets students harness their own individual learning strengths to learn and retain information. Instead of the instructor or professor leading the experience, you can take the time to learn independently.
While you may need to ask for help or clarification sometimes, the bulk of your learning is done on your own.
You Have a Lot to Balance
One of the greatest advantages of the best self-paced online colleges is that they offer flexibility. You can learn at your own convenience and work through the lectures and material when it’s the best for you, not a set time that you have to meet for an in-person lecture.
For example, you may be most productive in the early morning hours before your workday. Or perhaps you prefer to focus on schoolwork in the afternoon while your partner is at work and the kids are at school. For some, productivity comes late at night while everyone else is asleep (you’re not likely to find in-person lectures at midnight!).
You’re Comfortable with Technology
No matter what, self-paced college online requires a certain level of comfort with technology. Different schools offer different learning platforms to access your assignments and texts, so you’ll need to learn to navigate them. You’ll also need comfort with technology to complete your work, such as Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint or Google Docs and Sheets.
This goes without saying, but you will need a strong internet connection for online courses. If you have issues with your internet service, you may have to contact IT support to get reconnected and complete your work.
You Have a Distraction-Free Environment
When the world had to abruptly shift to remote work, many people discovered unexpected distractions in their home lives. Kids at home, dogs barking, or people knocking on your door can be a big disruption to your focus while you’re trying to work – or learn.
Attending college at your own pace can be especially challenging if you don’t have a space you can turn into an at-home classroom with no distractions. It’s best to have a quiet room with a door where you can set up a desk, computer, and school supplies. If that’s not possible, you can set up a space in a quieter area of your home and ask everyone to respect your study time.
You Enjoy Writing
With in-person lectures, your participation involves discussions in class and interacting with other students. You can have a similar experience with accredited self-paced online colleges, but it all takes place in discussions, forums, or chats. If you’re not a strong writer, interacting this way can be difficult.
In addition, most of your assignments will be written assignments. Even quizzes or exams may include short-answer questions, rather than multiple choice or true or false questions. That said, writing skills are essential for the modern workplace, especially with remote work, and it’s good to build these skills while you’re getting your education.
You Enjoy Networking
Networking is not limited to traditional schooling. You can gain valuable networking opportunities with online learning, which can help you make connections to further your career. But like anything else, you only get out of it what you put in.
Many schools encourage networking by hosting virtual events or seminars. If you’re comfortable interacting online and can communicate effectively, you can make the most of these opportunities.
Ready to Get Started?
Is self-paced learning the right choice for you? Sophia Learning offers a free trial to see if self-paced online college-level courses are right for you. Start your trial today!