What are the skills you need to be successful? What are the secrets to success? When it comes to distance learning these are questions we have all undoubtedly asked ourselves as well as other Athabasca University students. There really is no right answer. You will find your own tricks, your own secrets, and your own methods that will work best for you. Perhaps having access to other AU students is very important for those days when you feel isolated and alone. Or knowing what other students have achieved and what they are going through might be infinitely helpful on days when the work left seems unmanageable. That being said, no matter what, you need to have the confidence to rely on yourself and your instincts.
So how did you decide to take on the daunting task of distance education? This is a question I have been asked several times, and knowing the answer is one of the most important steps in my being successful with AU. I was laid up after surgery for twelve weeks and, half way through the recovery, decided I needed something more out of my life; I did not want to be stuck in dead end jobs, with my dream only a shadow in my mind. Going back to a bricks and mortar university did not seem like an option; I had a life where I was and I did not want to leave it?even after I was physically able to move beyond the couch. Making the choice for myself, by myself, is key to my continued progress through the program. I made this choice, and I make each course selection, so if I hate a course or struggle through a course I have no one to blame but myself, and I will be the one to suffer the consequences if I give up. I began this process to learn, to better myself, and to achieve a dream. I keep this in the forefront of my mind as I work through each assignment and each course.
While keeping in mind the reason you started this process is essential, there are other secrets to success. One of the biggest lessons I have learned?something I wish I had discovered earlier in my program?is to lean on others when you need to and to trust your own instincts. Trusting my instincts and asking the hard questions has been a steep learning curve. I did not trust my skills and I did not want to ask a “silly” question for fear of looking stupid. However, once I broke through my shell and asked the questions I was too afraid to ask, I found they were not common sense questions as I had convinced myself, but were, according to my tutor, very insightful. Getting positive feedback is an incredible morale boost which opened me up to asking more questions of tutors and students. By asking questions you will boost your confidence: you learn your questions were valid, you learn to trust yourself, and, perhaps most important, you clear up any confusion you may have had with the material. To get through this trial we call distance education you need to be open to asking questions and receiving critical feedback.
There is no one answer for every student, but these are a couple tricks everyone is able to use. They’ve been the two most important methods to keep me moving forward in this virtual university. Keep in mind as you move forward, as you struggle with a course or an essay, why you started. And do not be afraid to ask the “silly” questions.