1 . Confirm technical requirements
Online classes can benefit students with busy schedules, but only if they can access the materials.Youre going to need to understand what the technical requirements are, advises Andrew Wolf, coordinator of online learning at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Make sure before the course starts that your computer will work with all the online tools, and that you know how to navigate them so that you dont have to spend time during the course trying to figure out the technology.
2 . Connect with instructors early
After taking online courses in the past, Finley says he assumed his previous experiences would dictate future successes at Wake Forest.I know initially for me, I didnt contact my instructor because I felt like the course was going to be really easy for me, he acknowledges. But after multiple writing assignments were returned to him to revise, he says that he quickly changed his approach to the course and reached out for help.
Once I started coordinating with my instructor, I realized I needed to change my writing style, Finley says. You have to really stay in contact; its extremely important.
While instructors are available to help throughout the courses, Finley advises students to also find answers to class questions independently, if possible. Help is available but its not going to be available at the snap of a finger, he says. You cant just think youre going to be able to reach right out with a problem. You have to be willing to go out and find things on your own.
3 . Create a schedule
Quality online instructors will create courses that are easy to navigate and have clear expectations, notes Wolf. Really good professors will help you put the framework in place, he says. If you dont have that type of framework in place, youll have to do it yourself.
When Finley began his online course, he says he needed to dedicate two to three hour time blocks to log in and complete assignments. I had to change around my entire schedule to complement my course, he adds. Im using Microsoft Outlook more than ever to set up when projects are due and to stay on track with the assignments. You have to dedicate time to this.
4 . Stay organized
Students enrolled in traditional courses usually have a consistent schedule to follow each week, with in class instruction followed by out of class assignments. For online courses, students may have to find their own ways to stay on top of their work, notes Karen Stevens, chief undergraduate adviser of the University of assachusetts Amhersts University Without Walls program.
Students really, really need to be organized from the beginning to be successful in an online course, Stevens wrote in an E mail. All assignment due dates should be in their calendar, online or paper folders should be created for each week, and the work area should be not only quiet but clean keeping all coursework materials together.
5 . Have a consistent workspace
One thing online and in class courses have in common is that students still need a place to study or complete assignments, whether thats at a coffee shop, the school library, or at home. Wherever students choose to study and complete assignments, they should make it a consistent location thats free of outside interferences, notes Rochesters Wolf.
Ive actually had students who have told me that theyve been in the middle of an exam and their 2 year old starts crying, he says. You need a place to study thats quiet for a time thats set aside where you can focus on your work without distractions.
6 . Do not presume
Many students assume that online classes require less work and are easier than traditional classes. In reality, online classes are designed to be just as rigorous and demanding as traditional courses. Be prepared to do a minimum of six hours of work a week in an online course and thats a modest estimate. Some weeks and some entire classes will require far more than that, especially during the weeks of finals and midterms.
7 . Pay attention to the course learning objectives
Every course has learning objectives. Dont ignore these objectives. Course objectives are carefully crafted and they are the foundations around which a well designed course is built. Lectures, activities, written assignments, discussion boards, and tests in fact, everything in a course flow from the objectives. If you understand the course objectives, you will understand what is expected of you in all aspects of the class and will understand the criteria upon which your grades will be based.
8 . Read and practice everything
Go through every screen in a course, not just the graded assignments. Dont run through a course skipping videos, animations, and ungraded self assessment activities. Your instructor designed the course to help you achieve its learning objectives. Even if something doesnt have a grade attached to it, know that it is there to provide supplemental learning opportunities to better prepare you for graded assignments and exams.
9 . Be sure you have the required software and hardware
These requirements are usually specified somewhere in the course usually in the syllabus or course introduction section. You may not be able to turn in papers, view videos, or participate in groups if you dont have the proper technology. Making sure that you have the proper Internet connection, spyware, and software programs installed is essential to your online learning success. Dont let a piece of software or hardware prevent you from achieving learning objectives.
10 . Be open to new ways of learning
Students learn in different ways, and instructors often use a variety of strategies to appeal to a wide variety of learning styles. Give animations, videos, and audio files a try, even if they seem different from what youre used to. Well designed courses use technology to enhance learning, so be open to it.