Tips for success in online learning
Develop communication skills, know what is expected of you as a student, be prepared for unexpected events, sharpen your study skills, and learn how to manage stress.
Online students interact with classmates and faculty primarily through writing. Students need to communicate their ideas clearly in the course work, while building working relationships with instructors, and forming supportive associations with classmates. Students will use online courseroom tools, email, discussion posts, and possibly voicemail to communicate with classmates and faculty. These messages should be delivered effectively and professionally.
Communication in the Online Courseroom:
- Read and understand faculty expectations before starting work on the course.
- Be courteous and professional.
- Stay on-topic with course discussion posts, which should be substantive and provide
- Before posting comments, always check spelling, grammar, and punctuation and avoid
- Read the email message without bias to avoid misinterpreting the tone or content.
- Respond to the email message in a courteous and professional manner, after briefly
summarizing your understanding of it.
- Articulate concerns to your instructor in detail, e.g., “Please explain for me what parts
of my answers to the discussion question were wrong?"
- Talk slowly and clearly.
- Provide your first and last name. Spelling your name may be necessary if the
instructor is unfamiliar with it.
- Provide your complete phone number twice.
- Let the instructor know when you will be available for a return call and include
your time zone.
- Briefly summarize the reason for your call.
- Communicating with classmates and faculty in the discussion forum is one of the most important ways students effectively learn online.
- Discussions contribute to in-depth comprehension of the subject matter, broader
perspectives, exposure to other points of view, application of concepts learned, and a
better grade for students.
- Students who respond to discussion posts early increase the likelihood that they will
complete the course and their degree program.
- Post substantive responses to the courseroom discussion.
- Discussion posts should be well thought out, complete, and clear—i.e., easily read.
- Discussion posts should reflect clear understanding of the topic and include
information that supports the student’s viewpoint.
- Check grammar, spelling, and organization of ideas before posting.
- Discussion posts should include relevant information from the readings, answer the
instructor’s questions, and encourage further discussion by engaging classmates
with the interpretation of the issue.
- Post on time so classmates have an opportunity to respond.
- Student posts should fulfill the instructor’s requirements for assignments by meeting
instructor expectations for the discussion forum.
- Reply to classmates in the course room discussion in a manner that encourages further
discussion. For example, go beyond “I agree” by stating why you agree or disagree
with a person, then ask an open-ended question to promote deeper discussion.
- Always submit assignments on time.
- Students should plan as well as they can for the possibility of unforeseen technical
problems or crises events.
- Technical Problems: Online students depend on computer and internet access to
complete their work, yet a hard drive can crash and internet access can be out due to
storms and other circumstances.
- Assignments should be backed up frequently on an external drive or by emailing them
- Know where you can go for free computer and internet access—e.g., public library.
- Acquire permission to use workplace computers.
- Form study habits that work well for you as an online student.
- Since online courses are reading intensive, students may print hard copies so they can
read on the go.
- Students can copy and paste important information into a word processing
document, which allows them to change to the font size and text layout that best
reduces strain on the eyes.
- Find a comfortable and quite place to study, with minimal distractions and
Take Advantage of Technology :
- Readability (https://www.readability.com/) is a free tool that makes reading on the
web easier by removing sidebars, advertisements and other clutter from around the
- Listen to text with Natural Reader (http://www.naturalreaders.com/index.htm).
- Use a text-to-screen (TTS) program such as TextAloud (http://www.nextup.com/) to
convert text into portable audio files.
- Use the Read Out Loud feature in Adobe programs to listen to PDF documents.
- Use the Booth Library MyMediaMall to check out and download audiobooks, ebooks, and videos. (http://www.library.eiu.edu/resources/books.html)
Stress and Wellness
- Since students are balancing professional, personal, and academic commitments,
they often feel overwhelmed. Therefore, it is essential that they apply strategies
to effectively manage stress: 1. take breaks, 2. exercise, 3. get enough sleep,
4. set "quiet times", or speak with an academic advisor.
- Understand myths about stress (Adapted from Miller, L. H. Miller, & Smith, A. D. (2004). The stress solution. American Psychology Association):
Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody. This statement is incorrect; because, stress affects people differently and each person reacts to stress differently. What is stressful for one individual may or may not be stressful for another person.
Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you. When stress is managed properly, it causes a person to produce better and feel happier; but, mismanaged stress damages and can even kill people.
Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you can't do anything about it. This is incorrect; because, people can plan their lives so that stress does not overwhelm them by setting priorities and working on and solving simple problems first and then tackling more complex problems. If stress is not properly managed, then stress appears to be everywhere to a person.
Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones. Since individuals react to stress differently and become stress by different things, a educational plan personalized to the individual is most effective.
Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress. Showing no signs of stress does not mean a person is not experiencing stress. Medications may conceal the stress that individuals are experiencing.
Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention. Consequently, minor symptoms (e.g., headaches or stomach acid) may be ignored. Minor symptoms are early warning signs that a person’s stress needs to be managing better.
- Click here to learn how stress affects the body: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/
Time Management Skills
Since online learning requires self-direction and motivation from students, learning to effectively manage one’s time is paramount to successfully completing the course and/or program. Instructors will provide structure within the course through the syllabus, assignment descriptions, deadlines, grading rubrics, and feedback; yet, much of the student work is completed outside of the online courseroom. So, students should build their own schedule for completing the course by establishing:
- When to log in to the course.
- When to complete weekly reading assignments in preparation for discussions and assignments.
- When to participate in weekly discussions.
- When to complete assignments.
- When to work on increments of larger projects due later in the semester.
Online students should be self-directed by:
- Understanding priorities.
- Setting both short- and long-term goals.
- Creating effective schedules.
- Rewarding self for reaching goals along the way.
Online students should be resourceful by:
- Taking time to learn about and use resources that are available on the School of Continuing Education website.
- Making contact with their advisor routinely.
- Communicating effectively to increase efficiency.
- Knowing where to find the answers to their questions.
Online students can be proactive by:
- Planning ahead with assignments.
- Setting time to work on major projects early in the quarter.
- Allowing ample time to ask the instructor questions and receive feedback.
- Communicating with their instructor.
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