Sunday, September 28, 2008
In the world of the internet, more and more teaching institutions are going to either hybrid or fully online courses. I've been teaching online courses for a few years now, and here are some helpful tips for students of any kind for online success:
1) Log onto your online course every day. Doing this at least once a day will promote good communication of due dates, announcements, grades, or any changes in the lesson plans.
2) Check your email every day. Sometimes, when instructors have information for one or two students that does not apply to the entire class, the more private way of communicating these issues is through email.
3) Check due dates... and write them down somewhere on a calendar or daily planner to give you a place to look when your computer is not on. I know from personal experience that toward the end of a lengthy online course, the last thing I want to do is log onto my computer to check these. It's less effort to simply look at a calendar on the wall to know what you have to turn in for the day, and you can see what's coming for tomorrow.
4) Work ahead, if possible. The flexibility that online courses offer can be a pro or a con. Students who do not take advantage of the "work when you can" attribute to online courses can sometimes find it easy to procrastinate instead, thinking "I have until midnight to take this test... I'll start it at 11:00." Most courses will allow you to do your final lesson/exam at least a week before the end date of the course... if you have a course to follow, this could give you a week off to rest your noodle.
5) Ask questions. Simple, yes, but also realize that most online courses allow instructors a 24-48 hour response time for any questions. The #4 tip will help you with this... if you have a test due Friday, don't wait until Thursday to ask a question when you've had all week to look over the material. You will find yourself in a state of panic when it could have been avoided.
6) Communicate well... be specific when asking questions in an email. Make references to which book, page number, question number, on which chapter number, test number, assignment number, etc. that you are referring to. I commonly receive questions like "what was the answer to #3?" With a 48 hour response time, a lot of time can be wasted, and your answer may not be addressed, before the week's lesson is over.
7) Sign your email. Depending on how your online course is set up, the instructor might only receive your email address in the "sent from" box, and if you don't sign it, there's no way of knowing who the email is from. Make sure to sign your first and last name with each email. If you don't, all the instructor knows is that the email is from "firstname.lastname@example.org." The other alternative is to create a free email account using your name as part of it.
8) Make sure you have the correct textbooks. Find out which editions you can use, and that you are purchasing the correct ones. Websites like Amazon.com will have some great deals that can save you money rather than buying new textbooks, but the extra effort must be made to purchase the correct editions, or any accompanying materials that the course requires like cd's, flashcards, or lab workbooks.
9) Browse the course well before any due dates. Make sure you are comfortable with the platform you are using... especially if you're not a "computer person." This will dramatically improve efficiency if/when you're in a time crunch and need information quickly.
10) Last, but definitely not least, take an online course before committing to any completely online program. If you are not sure that you are the type of student that is self-motivated enough to perform your assignments and diligently work without supervision, test it out. Take a prerequisite course at your local community college to see if you are the type of learner that is capable of doing an online course outside of the classroom. Some people just learn better inside a classroom and need that instructor/student face-to-face interaction... important to consider before committing to a 2 or 4 year dedicated online program.