While many college students lean toward a traditional college setting where they can be seen and heard, many choose the path of online courses for the sake of convenience. Whether you work a full-time job, have a family to take care of, or just want to eliminate some commute time, online courses can sometimes be more difficult to attend because of the self-discipline they involve. Distance learning courses in political science, criminal justice, nursing, and more subjects can be just as rigorous as traditional campus-based programs.
In my previous post centered on online teaching strategies, I discussed the elements that instructors should take into account when teaching an online course. In this post I am focusing on the student’s end: the elements that should be taken into account when attending an online class.
- Time Management: When starting your online class it is important to consider, realistically, what your time management is going to be. Since most online courses are accessible twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, you can show up to class anytime you want. However, many students do not take into account the time involved in completing lengthy and in-depth assignments. You need to take stock of your personal life, your obligations therein, and when you can set aside a scheduled time frame to work on assignments in your online class. If this means that you can only spend a good couple of hours a day on it at eleven at night, then that is what you are going to have to do.
- Ask Questions: In an online environment, if you do not ask questions or are confused, if you do not speak up, no one will ever know you need the help. Take the time to try to understand the material, the tasks, and the assignment guidelines as they are given. If there is anything that is difficult to understand, then you need to ask the instructor. Make sure you are clear on what it is that you are having trouble with understanding, and voice a question in a way that will elicit an answer that will help point you in the right direction.
- Keep Consistent Contact With Your Instructor: This goes along the same lines as asking questions when you need help. But keeping contact with your instructor can ensure that he/she is receiving your work when you turn it in, and also being able to request extensions when something arises. Be sure to stay in touch on a regular basis. When something arises that would take away from an assignment due date, you will have that foundation for good communication with your instructor. Keeping communication open in this way will also give you the benefit of feedback and constructive criticism on the work that you turn in.
- Be Aware of the Technology Involved: Be conscientious about your online surroundings and class environment. Do you need any specific software to complete course work? What about an alternative computer to work from when yours is on the fritz? Make sure you find out all you possibly can about what is going to be involved in your online classes so you can plan with it.
- Get Feedback From Other Students: “When in doubt, reach out”, I always like to say. If for some reason you cannot get in touch with the instructor about a topic or assignment, do not hesitate to reach out to your fellow classmates. Communicating with other students can give you great insight, point out things that were not so apparent to you previously, and create a sense of community for future assistance when you need it.
Keep in mind that these are basic tips from my own online course experience, and there are so many resources that can be of help as well. One thing is for certain: maintaining communication with other students in the class and your instructor is a very important factor that results in understanding and comprehension of the topics covered. Everybody can use a little more understanding, right?