Online Learning

Online learning continues to expand throughout higher education, and if you’re a prospective college student, chances are good that you will complete an online class yourself in the future. You may take a class entirely online or enroll in one of the “hybrid” variety (in which you’ll complete some work online, but also have face-to-face meetings).

I’ve seen firsthand that a well-designed online course with a knowledgeable and skilled professor offers an excellent learning opportunity. Within these classes, the self-motivated and organized student can excel. . . IF that student understands the differences and unique challenges online learning presents:

The online classroom has its advantages (flexibility and convenience), but its coursework is not easier, and it does take some getting used to. Read on for eight basic nuggets of advice.

1. Make it a MUST: complete your school’s online orientation session, module, or questionnaire. Colleges often offer a highly recommended (if not mandatory) orientation session in which students are asked questions and/or presented with some valuable lessons about online learning. This kind of session will be well worth your time.

2. Be aware of your time commitments and budget your time accordingly! The typical 3-credit-hour online class will take you at least 10 hours a week to complete successfully. See here for more on time management in college.

3. Once in the online classroom, immediately print out the schedule / calendar / list of assignments due. Tack it to your office wall or file it in a prominent place in your binder. Don’t let out of sight be out of mind.

4. Get organized: even though the class is online, you should keep a physical binder with a course calendar and list of assignments due, plus the syllabus and any important notes. Carefully organize all this, perhaps by week, and perhaps with color-coded tabs. Such organization will help you to keep track of class requirements even when you’re offline, and in case of computer failure (it happens!).

5. Make it a habit: log in to class at least once every weekday in order to check for new class messages, announcements, and any community activity (such as within a discussion board).

6. Read everything very carefully. This may be online profs’ biggest complaint about some of their online students: “they don’t read!” Don’t be one of those students. Read well — particularly the lecture notes and the professors’ emails, announcements, and comments on your work. Don’t overlook any extra study aids, such as web links within the class, in addition to the textbook’s website if you have one.

7. Ask questions when you have them. First, check to see if your class has an FAQ section. If your question isn’t there, a community “student café” message board is often ideal for procedural or even course content questions, but don’t be afraid to send your prof a message directly, either.

8. Finally, do not procrastinate! Over and over again, I see experienced online students tell the newbies that procrastination is the online student’s worst enemy.

In short, remember your commitment and consistent effort in the online classroom will determine your degree of learning. E-learning’s an exciting world, so if you decide to jump in, welcome and good luck!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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