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Home Are You Ready For Online Courses

The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton is excited to offer many online courses.  Theses courses provide convenience and technical enrichment for our students; however, students should carefully consider the following questions before taking a eLearning course:

  1. Am I computer literate? Computer literacy includes the following skills:  downloading, printing, unzipping files, blocking pop-ups, saving and uploading documents, e-mailing, and operating Windows. 
  2. Do I have reliable and consistent access to a computer?  Do I have reliable Internet access?  Do I have a back-up plan should my own computer malfunction? Since most students who take computer courses have other commitments such as families and jobs, it is imperative that students be able to access eLearning at convenient hours.  Additionally, instructors will not accept computer malfunction as an excuse for late work, so students who choose to procrastinate should have access to another computer in case their primary computer fails. 
  3. Will I take responsibility to learn to use the eLearning program? Students have several training options to help them become proficient with the eLearning program.  First, an on-line tutorial is offered on the eLearning homepage.  Also, students may attend one of the scheduled tutorials offered by the UACCM eLearning liaison.  Finally, students who are very computer savvy may learn the program through individual practice.  However, students should be aware that their instructors are responsible for teaching the competencies of the course, not how to use the eLearning program.  Students should contact their individual instructors with subject-related questions only.  All eLearning concerns should be directed to Grace Gunter at gunter@uaccm.edu.
  4. Do I enjoy reading?  Am I able to easily comprehend and learn from reading material without classroom lecture reinforcement? eLearning courses require more reading than most traditional courses.  Additionally, the information presented in assigned reading is not reinforced by a classroom lecture.  Most importantly, students should carefully read, comprehend, and agree to all the requirements in the course syllabus.  Students who do not enjoy reading or who feel they are weak readers should not take a eLearning course.
  5. Do I understand that taking a eLearning course will require self-discipline?  Do I understand that eLearning courses often require more work than a traditional course? Since eLearning students and instructors do not meet regularly, a student can expect to spend those three lecture hours per week reading and studying material on eLearning.  Additionally, students should expect to spend an additional two to three hours per course hour per week as suggested by the University for college success.  This means that students can expect to spend approximately 9-12 hours per week on an on-line course. 

If students can answer “yes” to the previous questions, they will probably find taking a eLearning course to be convenient and enriching.  After carefully considering the previous issues, students who decide to take a web course should also consider these suggestions from UACCM student Jeff Pistole:

  1. Log in early and look ahead. Many eLearning instructors have their courses ready early, so it may be possible to log in before the first official day of class. This is a good time to look over the course and see what kind of assignments you are going to be doing. Instructors can track your activity. This means they know when you log in and the duration of time you spend, which brings me to the next tip.
  2. Log in often. There are days when I log into a course up to ten times. You never know when your instructor might post a message for the class, put up a new assignment, or change an existing assignment. Anytime you have a spare minute and a computer is handy, you should log in and check the course for changes.
  3. Participate in class discussion. Most instructors are going to require you to post to the discussion board. I recommend active discussion; it makes the class more enjoyable. In a traditional classroom setting students are often hesitant to speak up in class and discuss the subject matter. However, I have noticed that in eLearning courses more students participate in the discussions. This is because their identity is somewhat hidden.
  4. Contact the instructor often. Anytime you have a question, do not hesitate to contact the instructor. Some questions can be handled via email. More detailed questions may require that you call the instructor. Instructors do not mind if you call them; that is what they are there for.  Also, if at all possible, you should make every effort to meet your instructor in person. Meeting each other in person will make your correspondence more meaningful. (It is always nice to be able to put a face with the name.)
  5. Make use of all available resources. This means in addition to textbooks you should utilize course materials provided by your instructor. This includes, but is not limited to, PowerPoint presentations, chapter notes, and links to helpful web sites. Also, UACCM makes a Math Lab and a Writing Center available to all students. For the eLearning student, these resources are valuable. I recommend using them often. Using the Math Lab or Writing Center could give you the edge.
  6. Learn something and have fun doing it!

Technical Considerations

  1. Do you know how to start and exit applications/programs?
  2. Do you know how to create, save and manage files on your computer?
  3. Do you know how to install software on your computer if you need to?
  4. Do you know how to connect to the Internet?
  5. Do you know how to use a browser, such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator?
  6. Do you have a reliable connection to the Internet with at lease a 56K modem?
  7. Do you know how to send and receive e-mail messages?
  8. Do you know how to attach a file to an e-mail message?
  9. Do you know how to receive a file attachment from an incoming e-mail?
  10. Do you know how to use Microsoft Office products, such as Word, Excel, etc.?

Learning Style Considerations

  1. Which describes your best work environment?
    1. Can stay on task without direct supervision.
    2. Work best when someone is there to help keep me focused.
  2. Which best describes your time management style?
    1. Can manage your time and study environment effectively.
    2. Tend to put tasks off for later.
  3. Which best describes your learning style?
    1. You learn best from reading text and assignments.
    2. You learn best from spoken or visual presentations.
  4. Which best describes your computer/technology adaptation?
    1. You enjoy learning new computer or technology skills.
    2. The thought of having to learn new computer or technology skills causes you anxiety.
  5. Which form of receiving instructions is most effective for you?
    1. You usually understand written instructions.
    2. Having instructions explained makes a big difference for you.
  6. Which best fits your conception of online classes?
    1. You plan to allocate as much time in your schedule for your online course as you would for a more “traditional” classroom course.
    2. You think an online course will have a lighter work load and won’t require as much time as a “traditional” classroom course.
  7. Which type of feedback works best for you?
    1. You are good at assessing your own progress.
    2. You need instructor feedback right away.

How To Assess Your Answer

If you answered “No” to any of the Technical Consideration questions above, you may want to reconsider taking an online course.  If you decide to continue with an online course, you should make extra time in your schedule for the additional technology you will be required to learn in addition to the course content.  Technical support is available regarding problems with eLearning; however, you will be expected to already know how to use the Internet and the tools listed above. 

Answering (a) to the questions in the Learning Style Consideration section is a good indicator that you are well suited to the online classroom environment.  If your answers lean more toward (b), then you may find the online learning environment less satisfying.  The online classroom requires you to manage your own schedule, balancing your time around the assignments/requirement of the class.  Without the structure of meeting at a certain place and time, some students find it too easy to put off work until the last minute, which can be extremely detrimental in an online course.  Much of the material presented in an online course will require you to learn from reading (textbooks, Internet-based materials, and written notes or lectures from your instructor).

This self assessment is designed to help you decide if online learning is right for you.  It can serve as an indicator but not as a definitive answer.