It’s not an “academic” question. Research shows that shy people can do extremely well – but that having an “internal locus” is very important.
One of the biggest worries that students have when they’re about to sign up for an online course is whether or not they will be comfortable learning in an environment that’s very different from a traditional classroom.
An interesting study done in 2007 by Shawna Strickland, a clinical assistant professor who teaches online courses in respiratory care at the University of Missouri, offers strong insights into exactly what type of person is most likely to succeed as a distance learner.
There’s been lots of debate in the academic world about how many of the people who sign up for online learning programs actually complete them (Read about the supposed high failure rate for online students), but there’s no doubt that some people learn very successfully in the online environment, while others tend to have trouble or ultimately drop out.
Key personality traits for online learning success, according to professor Strickland’s report are:
- An “internal locus of control.” People how have this essentially believe that their own actions control outcomes in their lives. People with an external control locus have a much great need for feedback and support from professors and other students – things they do not get a great deal of in the online learning environment. Websites of many online universities warn students about this issue. A page on the Los Angeles Harbor College page for its online courses offers fairly typical advice:: “You also need to be able to work on your own. The instructor and other students will be available by email, discussion group, and phone so you’re not entirely on your own, but sometimes there can be a delay in getting an answer…Some people prefer to work this way. If you need the immediate feedback of your fellow students and instructor, an online class is not for you.”
- Shy introverted nature a plus? These people actually shine in distance learning classes, Strickland says, because they feel more comfortable being anonymous online, and prefer using online chat areas to respond to teachers questions than they would speaking up in a traditional classroom.
- Motivation and commitment. Because there’s generally no one looking over your shoulder in a distance learning class, students need to be motivated and self-directed. One MU student, quoted in the Columbia Missourian, noted that his problem with taking online courses at Professor Strickland’s school was “mainly procrastination.” For adult learners in particular, the ability to put aside distractions to get schoolwork done on time is an absolute key to success in this area.
Another important element is a comfort level with computers. Although current online learning systems are made to be user-friendly, it helps to have a basic comfort level with using a computer to search the web, send email and perform other basic functions. For students who have ever used a computer at work, it’s usually not difficult.