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Online Learning Tips (Part 1 Students)

Covid 19 has changed the whole world, including the way we do education. Imagine this...your college has just pushed all your classes online. Maybe you're an experienced online learner and worried the newbies are going to suck up all the virtual air in your class by monopolizing the professor's time.Or perhaps you have been avoiding online classes, and now feel like you've been saddled with a second best option. Either way, I'd like to offer you a few insights from my years of teaching classes (and sometimes taking classes) online.


Remember, it might be the "first rodeo" for some, including your instructor. Don't be surprised if online classes in the next few months have some bumps and glitches. Many instructors who've never taught online will be learning technology while trying to teach content. Many of your classmates will struggle with understanding how using their devices for entertainment and using them for learning differ. Everyone's going to struggle a bit, so relax and try not to worry. We are in this together.


YouTube is your friend. Online teaching has been around for a while now, and if you've got a question (How do I upload my homework? How do I participate in a conference or watch the replay?) there's probably a video available to walk you through it. 


Read the syllabus. For ages, instructors have complained that students don't read the syllabus for their course, don't be one of those students. In addition, take the time to read or watch all of the "how to get started" information your instructor provides. If you have questions or concerns, contact your instructor right away. 


Set yourself up for success. In these days of shelter-in-place and social distancing, finding a quiet work environment and solid internet connection can be a bit tricky. Create a workspace in your home, and discuss your need for some quiet time with family. Use the calendar embedded in your course and your best time management skills to create a schedule. 

Speaking of scheduling...understand how your classes are going to work. Are they synchronous (you must be logged in at a specific time) or asynchronous (do work any time of the day/night) or some combination? For example, a class could involve a daily lecture given through video conferencing, or it might just contain reading and written assignments, or maybe a combination. Whenever possible, schedule your most demanding work during your personal best time of day. 


Have realistic expectations. Many students mistakenly think that online courses are:

  • Easier than "regular classes" -- they are not. In fact working in an online class sometimes means more reading, researching, and writing time than a F2F course, since your online work is the only way for an instructor to evaluate your understanding and performance.

  • Something to do in your "spare time" -- yes, I actually had a student say this to me. Online classes ARE real classes. You must schedule regular work periods to complete them. If you fall behind, online courses can be particularly overwhelming and you might not be able to catch up. Find out early about your instructor's policy on late work and makeup work. This could save you heartache later.

  • Deadline free -- there are due dates and deadlines in online courses. Just because there's a great deal of flexibility relative to on-campus classes, doesn't mean you can do assignments whenever you want. 

  • Impersonal and robot like -- I can assure you that for the last five plus years students report having real engagement in my classes. You can still get to know classmates in your online course. Your instructor can, and should, show genuine interest in you and your learning.

Your college should have an eLearning support department. Find out how to contact them, and take advantage of all the resources and training they offer. 

It's unfortunate that many of you will come to online learning because of a world-wide health crisis, and not out of choice. Online classes can be wonderful, but if you feel you were pushed into them it's a bit hard to feel enthusiastic. Instructors understand this. Welcome to online learning. You can do this.



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(c) 2019 Karen Southall Watts