As a college student, you have myriad choices facing you. Depending on your decisions, you will be faced with particular responsibilities. If you choose to attend traditional college courses, you must attend regularly and do the work, paying attention to deadlines and course information, making sure that all of your tests and papers are taken care of in a proper manner and time frame as dictated by the instructor. As a student in a distance education course, you likewise have certain responsibilities that parallel the responsibilities you would have in a standard on-campus course. Many distance ed students make the mistake of allowing themselves to get behind, expecting the instructor to allow "technical difficulties" to make up for inability or unwillingness to get work accomplished on time. The reality is that this course is technically an independent study course, and therefore the onus of personal responsibility is even moreso placed on the student. To understand this concept more clearly, perhaps a comparison of the distance education course to a traditional class might be useful.
For a traditional class, your responsibility is to get to campus anyway you can…by car, by bus, or even walking, if necessary. Occasionally your transportation system will break down, causing you to be either tardy to (or even miss) class, and as long as these situations are indeed OCCASIONAL, these infractions will likely have minimal effect on your grade. However, missing several classes because of transportation problems may negatively affect your grade in a traditional classroom. Therefore, you need to ensure that your mode of transportation is reliable in order to avoid failure. If you cannot make it to class, it is reasonable to assume you are not prepared to attend school until you can fix your situation.
Getting to a virtual class involves some of the same factors. It is your responsibility to get to your virtual class by the appropriate means, usually involving computer hardware and software and a reliable dial-up to the Internet. Occasionally, a computer problem will occur. If these occurrences are more than occasional, you'll likely have trouble staying abreast of the course. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure that you maintain contact in a computer course, and that means if your computer crashes or your girlfriend/boyfriend moves out taking the pc with her/him, it is your responsibility to find another way to fulfill your responsibilities and assignments, whether through the computer lab on campus or by some other means. And while the computer lab is conveniently scheduled, like the bus, it does not run all the time, nor necessarily on your schedule. If you cannot maintain contact as required by the instructor, then you are not ready to take these courses.
If you do not have--or have access to--a home computer with a reliable internet hookup, then, like the student without a car to get to campus, you should reconsider taking the course, for you will likely fail if you cannot remedy your situation. If things break or fail, fix them. Keep your instructor informed. Know your responsibilities.
© T. T. Eiland, January 1998
Last modified: January 28, 2001