Online courses are designed to give students the opportunity for quality education within a self-directed environment. Students in online courses must be able to successfully manage their time in order to appropriately cover the course materials while allowing adequate study time. Online courses require self-discipline and attention to detail. Staying up with the class and completing all work on time is vital.
Technical readiness is also a critical component of success in online courses. Students should have a functional knowledge of personal computers. Understanding how to use the Internet browser, Windows, Microsoft Office, email, and other basic computing skills are critical to success in these courses.
Use the attached self-assessment to help you determine if you are ready to take an online course. When you feel you’re ready, the following information can be used to help ensure your success.
What To Expect
- Expect to learn the same material that you would in a face-to-face class.
- Expect to spend as much time, if not more, than taking the class in a traditional classroom setting. Just because “classroom” time is greatly reduced, it does not mean that learning time is similarly reduced. However, that time is more flexible.
- Expect to have assistance from your instructor. Distance Learning does not mean that you are on your own. Your instructor is available to assist and guide you in your learning and answer your questions throughout the course.
Keys to Success As An Online Student
Some characteristics of successful online students are:
- Positive communication skills
The following simple steps can help you set yourself up for online success:
- Participate in class discussions. You can learn a great deal from your peers as well as from your instructor. Sharing information and critique helps develop higher-level thinking and can help you retain the learning. It also demonstrates your active involvement in the class.
- Use the distance to your advantage. If you are intimidated by face-to-face debate in a classroom, use the distance afforded by the online environment to express yourself more openly. Take the time you need to develop your ideas and write a thoughtful response, which contributes to the learning environment in a very positive way.
- Seek support from your family, co-workers, and friends. Ask them to respect your learning time; consider creating "I'm not really here, I'm in class" signs to indicate that you shouldn't be disturbed right now. Also ask your friends and family for feedback on your class work. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help you find an embarrassing typo, or can lend a new perspective to a problem you've been working on.
- Make space for your learning. Set aside a physical space and, if possible, a regular time for your learning. Make your space as private as possible to minimize distractions and signal to those around you that you are "in class" and shouldn't be disturbed. Turn off cell phones and unplug the regular phone while you're working -- after all, you wouldn't answer a phone call in a classroom, right? If you can, do your class work in the same place each day. Studies have shown that learning in a consistent physical surrounding actually helps you retain what you're learning.
- Log on to your course space daily. Get into the habit of logging into your course daily. This will ensure that you don't miss any announcements or fall behind in your work. Even if you only take a few minutes to check in, you'll feel more connected with your classmates and instructor. Students and instructors have reported that they feel much less overwhelmed in an online course if they check in more frequently. Doing the work in smaller chunks spread throughout the week doesn't let it accumulate into something that will take a long time to weed through. This decreases stress and improves the overall consistency of your learning process by helping you avoid "my brain is full" syndrome.
- Establish your presence online. It is important that your instructor be able to "visualize" you as an individual. In a classroom course, your presence reinforces your participation and develops an impression with the instructor. Online, it's your ongoing positive communications that will help your instructor create a recognizable mental picture of you.
- Take advantage of online resources. There is a growing and rich body of resources available to online students. Make yourself familiar with the resources that pertain to your area of study, and consult these resources whenever appropriate to your assignments and learning needs. This will help you find additional materials, but may also provide alternative explanations, diagrams, games, and readings that will solidify your knowledge.