The human mind cannot help do anything but learn from the world around it. We are like sponges. From the day we are born until the very day we free their very last breath our mind is constantly taking in information, processing it and integrating it into the way we see the world. A little baby picks up a toy, puts it in his mouth and all the while the various inputs are teaching his brain about the world. A toddler stands for the first time in learns how to balance. An adolescent learns to ride a bicycle by taking cues from the world around her. A team picks up on social cues from peers and parents and learns how to appropriately interact with others. At every stage of our lives we have an amazing capacity to learn.

Because of this innate ability we can’t help but learn when we go online as well. When we check our favorite news story, read our friends’ Facebook status , check her e-mail or shop online we are learning new things about the world around us. So jumping from that loosely structured type of learning to the structure online type of education is not a huge jump but it is important to know a little bit about what it takes to succeed.

Jonathan Finkelstein, author of Learning in Real Time, notes in his introductory comments to Online Education for Dummies that the most important factor in a student’s educational success is their degree of personal motivation. Oliver DeMille, a great new thinker about the world of education, similarly notes that there is a myth we perpetuate that says that one person can teach another. However, he goes on suggest that the only person that can truly teach is the student himself.

Finkelstein also suggests that motivation is important there is another important factor in a student’s success online and that is a solid online program offering. Because it is not always easy to look from the outside and identify this type of program it is important to reference the vast experience of those who put their time behind determining what makes online education program successful.

Educators have had much to say in our day and age about the importance of using technology to help educate. While some, including DeMille, are opposed the preeminent place of technology in education, mainly because it can easily get in the way of true education, Finkelstein is convinced by the stories of the online graduates that student motivation, combined with a great online offering can be an amazing and beneficial experience. For the offering to be sound he suggests that it must be “humanely designed, appropriately stimulating, and structurally sound, and well supported” (Foreword to Online Education for Dummies).

However while DeMille and Finkelstein disagree on the place of technology in education, both agree that the learning of the student should be facilitated by guides or mentors that can help lead the student through uncharted territories.

So if you’re motivated and find a good program and guide you can make the leap from general learning into online learning without much trouble.

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