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What to Expect in an Online Course
(It's Not All That You May Have Heard or Read)

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So you have decided to become a life long learner and add higher education to your schedule by taking classes online. Congratulations on making this important decision that will pay off for generations to come.

Whether you are new to the online learning environment, or a seasoned veteran, I’m sure you will find some helpful information here that will assist you in making this decision a successful one!

CAN I PASS AN ONLINE COURSE?

The answer to this question lies within you. No teacher can answer this question but I can offer some tips and techniques that can make the tansition to online learning a smooth one.

First, you must understand learning involves. Let's take a look at a few MYTHS of online learning.

ONLINE LEARNING MYTHS and MISUNDERSTANDINGS

"I'm going to study online so I can go to class in my pajamas"

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While this particular statement is true, attending class "in pajamas" means any time classwork can be squeezed into an already very tight schedule. Working in pajamas should NOT be a selling point for taking online courses unless you wear pajamas 24/7; the work schedule could translate to this if students are not careful!

Other MYTHS you should know:

    • Online Learning is NOT Self-learning.  Your instructor is available to you through email and will provide feedback through the Discussion Board and projects. Working ahead and without clarity of assignment expectations can actually be detrimental to your success.
    • Online Learning is NOT a way to easily earn a degree …quite the contrary.  It takes motivation and self-discipline, probably the greatest challenges to new online learners.
    • Online Learning is NOT an extension of a high school classroom.  There are online K-12 classrooms, but higher education courses are not. This is college level work and you will be expected to achieve college-level standards in your work.

    ONLINE LEARNING IS:

    • An opportunity to obtain a degree on a more flexible schedule than a brick and mortar schedule. Yes! You get to set your own schedule but if it is not properly balanced, professional, personal, and educational goals can all suffer!
    • A setting where you can meet and work with students from all over the world. You will have the opportunity to engage with classmates and instructors located all over the world.
    • As challenging as a traditional college course (if not more challenging). This is where most new students have difficulty. Time Management is critical to success. It's best to develop a good plan but be patient with yourself. It can take as much as 12 months to get everyone in your household on schedule with your reduced availability.

    As is the case with any endeavor -- the more YOU put into your online courses, the more YOU will benefit and enjoy them.

    Let's look at some helpful tips and suggestions:

    PRINT OUT THE COURSE OUTLINE/COURSE SYLLABUS

    Most online courses require the ability to create .doc, .rtf. or .docx documents. I understand the difficulty students have in locating and obtaining the minimum technical requirements for their courses, but there can be no success in an online course if the minimum technical requirements are not met. Print out the course syllabus and/or outline and keep it nearby. This is crucial to having the proper tools for success. There are a number of compatible open source Office-like software that can be used in lieu of the full Office Suite but keep in mind --> YOUR INSTRUCTOR CANNOT GRADE DOCUMENTS THAT DO NOT OPEN.

    Questions about how to contact your instructor, when assignments are due, grading expectations, and deadlines can all be found in the course syllabus or outline.

    FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE COURSE LAYOUT

    Take a look around the classroom! It will be very important for you to learn how to review your instructor's returned comments on graded work. Note where assignments will be submitted, discussion board work will be posted, where outside links and additional supplemental material can be located, and how to connect with any synchornous sessions (ChatLive on ecollege, for example). You must know where to submit your assignments...usually by the end of the first week so do not delay!

    MAKE DISCUSSION WORK A PRIORITY

    Discussion work is the homework area of the classroom. It should be treated with the same respect as formal writing environments. In order to draft High Quality Discussion Board Posts and Classmate Replies that get results, see this link!

    READ COMMUNICATIONS FROM YOUR INSTRUCTOR

    I am always amazed by the number of students who often respond to my emails with questions about the information contained...in my email. This is a clear indication that my communications are not being read and this is highly detrimental to success. You cannot be prepared to do well in any course, online or onground, if you do not read your instructor's communications.

    Sometimes instructor communications can get a bit long, but it’s all important information you need to know! So, please be sure to read all communications, top to bottom, so you don’t miss out on important points, key areas to concentrate on for the unit and additional instruction.

    READ GRADING CRITERIA BEFORE COMPLETING AN ASSIGNMENT

    This is the ONLY way to have a clear understanding of assignment expectations!

    READ COMMENTS ON RETURNED WORK

    I am often surprised at the number of students who do not read my comments on returned GRADED work. Your instructors spend a great deal of time reading through your essays and making comments. These comments are one-on-one conversations with you about your work. If you do not read these comments, you are only getting half of the teaching you have paid for! OPEN all documents returned to you in order to read additional comments.  Read ALL of the comments posted in the grading area.

    TURN PROJECTS IN ON TIME

    Some students feel uncomfortable about turning in work that they have a hard time with.  Turn your projects in on time…even if you have difficulty. Your instructor can offer guidance on how to improve subsequent work. It is not reasonable to expect to earn a perfect score on all work. Errors are required in order for learning to occur. 

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    ORGANIZE YOUR TIME

    With a little organization, you will do just fine. You might find the use of an interactive calendar, such as Windows Live, Google, or Yahoo helpful.  You can plot your commitments on the calendar and receive email and text reminders a couple of days before tasks are due. My Hotmail calendar saved my life when I began caring for my mother in 2006. Working fulltime, parenting, caregiving...it takes organization. Give yourself an advantage!

    Learning should be challenging but not frustrating. Please do not hesitate to contact your instructor with any questions or concerns you may have in any of your classes. Be sure to make your issue very clear to avoid losing precious time to question clarifications through email replies.

    Join the conversation on my Facebook page: Education Coffeehouse: Encourage, Engage and Educate

    Professor Marsha

    ProfB

    Marsha Kay Bass, ABD


    "It is easier to raise strong children than repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass

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