Roper, A. R. (2007). How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Educause Quarterly, 1, 62-65.

Nearly 30% of the U.S.

Roper, A. R. (2007). How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Educause Quarterly, 1, 62-65.

So you’re heading to Harvard to study to be a doctor. You can barely spell, and even though you love to “study” you’ve never met anybody with knowledge that could help you. During your first semester, a professor accidentally slips an introduction-level chemistry course into your math elective and gives you a grade of two.

After three months of missed class-sessions and angry friends, you finally meet up with the professor at the coffee shop. You tell him about your bad luck with the course and wonder why he would assign a basic chemistry text to someone with no past chemistry experience. He brags that he originally thought you’d be a failure. Your eyes glaze over and you immediately make him listen to the rest of your story. How can he make a direct student feel so bad about themselves?

“Don’t worry, Mr. Super-Professor. We’re going to find out more about this pre-med topic, once you and I finish with the 5 basic Cs, and the rest will take care of itself. We’re not responsible for your attitude right now, and if you are not, well, someone better talk to that kid with the tattoo and try to fix it!”

You may be reminded of that philosophy by a small band of kids who do nothing more than develop coding skills on their computers, pass those tests and leave school three weeks later to find a solid job. And yet, while they may feel good about their work, they say these things to themselves and then rationalize about how they got the grades they did.

The Internet holds so much hope for these students because it’s easy to say, “I did good, I passed and it does not matter how I did.” And if they hit a stumbling block or hit a plateau, all they need to do is try again and again. Just like that fake doctor said, they’ll find out about the chemistry.

On the other hand, students who do not start early develop different skills because there are no reinforcements for a student who starts late. In the days leading up to your first test, you know you have no idea how well you can do. You go about your normal life and finally sit down to test your knowledge in algebra. You memorize the concepts and you do really well, but the actual test is impossible to understand because you’ve never passed a three-hour test before and never thought you’d do well on it. How can you expect to do well on something where it’s impossible to learn?

I like to think of our passion for learning in terms of steps. In a realistic world, at the beginning of college, I should be writing a cover letter and applying to a major. This may seem easy, but the reality is not. You have to fill out pages of standardized tests, take tests, submit applications, check references, complete applications, interview, wait for the acceptance letters and be able to articulate why you’re great. The harder and more difficult the task, the more ardent you have to want to pursue it. It all starts with a passion and a willingness to work hard to obtain that passion.

Does your life map out this way? What steps are you taking today to improve your skills? Is you been reading blogs and articles online? At each step, ask yourself if you are going to buy into the culture of expectation. How have you been feeling when it comes to learning? How are you coping with your boredom? Do you change your pace of learning to suit the curriculum, or do you just wait for them to tell you to go home? Do you build your skill sets and perseverance online or do you have to work at it for years?

If you keep your step up-and-down mentality when it comes to learning, you won’t reach the top of the ladder. If you keep going in the same old place, what will you do when the competition tips? Instead, go full steam ahead when it comes to learning because the person with the best technology and the largest data sets has already been there. The person who keeps digging deeper into her passions will be your primary competitor. The person who is focusing on her future career and putting in her own hours will have the strength to make it all happen.

This article was originally published on November, 3, 2011. It has been republished by Nation Found, an educational center. Originally published on Huff Post

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