Getting the Most from your Online Coursework
Starting courses online, whether your goal is an online degree or certificate or you're studying just for yourself, can be a daunting process. You need to quickly adjust to a new online interactive setting, usually a website that's about as complicated as Facebook, though it could be a little bit more technically challenging.
Just like with regular classes, you also need to meet your teacher and at least some of your online colleagues, and you need to have any offline materials in order, books or other study materials, and complete contact information for the instructor and any technical support people you may need.
These are just a few more tips to make sure your online coursework gets off to a good start.
You need to begin work exactly as the semester or term begins and keep the schedule and course guidelines at hand so that you can refer to them often. Try to keep yourself on-time from the very beginning because just because a course is online does not mean it's going to be easier. Plan ahead for what days of the week you'll be available to do the course work and stick to the plan. 3 or 4 months might seem long enough but it can pass very quickly - especially when you're behind.
Managing your time is one of the most important factors determining success in an online course. Stay on top of assignments and keep abreast of any interaction that's required for the classes. It's very easy to leave yourself too little time for your online courses, just like in traditional classes.
Take some time to learn about the online learning environment. Blackboard and Desire2Learn may be eclipsed by open-source Moodle as the most popular online learning environment. All 3 are still widely used, similar in nature and frustratingly different. If you've ever taken an online course, you have some idea what to expect but that expectation may be quickly dashed when the course instructor shows up in a totally different format or asks you to navigate to somewhere tricky and unknown. You can rest assured, all of the online learning environments above are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly. But it's not going to hurt to find out what you can about the system your school is using.
Online courses, just like their more traditional counterparts start out with a few weeks of adjustment. The third week should be a lot more familiar and but don't let yourself get lazy. Plan for a 3 week “wake-up moment” to rededicate yourself to the project at hand, and repeat it every subsequent 3 weeks. Remember, technical problems can come up well into the course, and you should be ready to address them immediately.
Your online teacher or professor may not be someone you see regularly (or ever), but you're entitled to regular contact, and most instructors will offer 1-on-1 online chat hours or open Q&A periods. You'll want to pop up and say hello at the very first opportunity. Remembering all your students can be difficult even in a traditional setting. With no faces attached, it's that much more difficult so don't be afraid to open up from the very beginning.
Be an active learner. Don't wait for anything keep your instructor informed if you do have any technical or personal issues. They may not be the person to solve them, but if you foresee even one class, or online period being missed, you should let your instructor know before hand. Taking responsibility for your own learning will pay off later. Communicate with as many other students as possible and try to overlook any early misunderstandings between you and your peers. Writing on a regular basis might be just as difficult for everyone else too. Keep up! Readings, books, case studies and all the web links need to be followed through. Just like attending traditional classes, logging into your course every day for updated messages, emails and other information will allow you to more effectively pass the course successfully.
Written by James Tomon - Degree Jungle Staff Writer © Degree Jungle 2010
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