The following is the first post of a two-part series. The first post provides tips for online learners. The second post will provide tips for online instructors.
When you were a child, were you scared of the water? Did you tip-toe to the edge of the pool with hesitance, caution, and a bit of fear? Perhaps you walked slowly to the edge of the pool, felt the temperature of the water with your hands, and maybe dangled your legs in first before working up the courage to submerge yourself. You were not alone. Very few kids leap right into the water without thinking about their action and generating a plan to build up the confidence needed to take the mighty plunge.
Well, you have decided now to take the plunge and participate in an online course. Similar to your first experience with water, we encourage you to build the confidence you need in your online course by modeling repeated actions before you dive into the course content. As a result, you will increase the potential you have to exceed personal learning expectations and maximize the rich opportunities an online course may generate. The remaining contents of the blog post will provide you with a few tips and items to consider as you embark on your first online learning experience.
You Reap What You Put Forth
Why did you decide to enroll in an online course? Flexibility? Choice toward where and when you learn? Or perhaps you learn best in a technological environment? Regardless, we hope one of your reasons for enrolling relates to becoming proficient in the subject matter.
Like most things, you will get back what you put forth. If you invest the proper amount of time, focus, and energy, you will have a pleasant online learning experience. If your plan is to complete and submit an entire week’s worth of activities during one Saturday afternoon, your experience might be less than satisfying. Submerge yourself into your coursework, challenge yourself to be great, and enjoy the modern day learning environment made available to you. As a result, you will reap the fruits of your labor and become a better stronger you.
Leverage The Technology Available To You
Have you ever left a nice hotel or vacation and later find yourself wondering what you did when you were there? Did you use all the hotel amenities available to you? Pool? Hot tub? Game room? Breakfast bar? Exercise equipment? Concierge service? Often, we have the opportunity to utilize amazing assets or services at our disposal, but we choose not to use them.
You are now an online student. You now have access to amazing technological tools built into the learning management system (LMS) your institution has provided. Discover them. Practice them. Take advantage of them. Leverage their existence; the tools are there for you. You want to exit your course fully aware you have maximized the tools, perks, and benefits of learning online. Examples include but not limited to
Think of it this way. Imagine two different people staying at a hotel for the weekend. Person A uses the swimming pool, exercise equipment, breakfast bar, and gathers cultural information about the town from the concierge. Person B does not use any of the amenities. Who do you think would have a better experience at the hotel? Now imagine two online learners. Learner A uses discussion forums, the help center, video conferencing, virtual office hours, personalized alerts, and mobile apps. Learner B does not use any of the online tools only the bare minimum to submit his/her work. Who do you think had a better learning experience? The world is at your fingertips while participating in an online course. Take advantage of it and use the online tools.
Make Time Your Friend Not The Enemy
Critics of online learning often state high school students are too young to take an online course because they lack the time management skills needed to succeed. I welcome this discourse and respectfully disagree. We should provide forums for young adolescents to learn how to create a plan, work backwards, and prioritize their academic life with external responsibilities. Otherwise, these life skills will be developed for the first-time in higher stakes environments such as college and careers. That being said, time management is a critical component to online learning, and you must proactively take the steps needed to stay on top of your coursework.
The beauty and benefit of an online course allow you, the student, to choose when and where you access the course. Mornings? Afternoons? Evenings? Late evenings? Weekends? All of the above? If you can learn to manage your time and apply self-discipline, the freedom you have to control when you learn is profound. Ultimately, you, the student, have the control. How cool is that. Make the control your friend but be cognizant that this freedom may also become your enemy. Consider harnessing time management organizers to assist you:
For more time management tips, check out the following resources:
Don’t Hide But Engage With Your Teacher and Peers
When you attend a presentation inside an auditorium or report to class on the first day of school, where do you sit? Do you intentionally try to find a seat near the back? While taking an online class, you should shy away from hiding, rather seek out your instructor and peers whenever you can. It is natural, and quite easy, to hide from your online instructor because you do not see them. However, your instructor cares deeply about you similar to your face-to-face instructors. Your instructor wants to get to know you. Your instructor wants to hear from you. Your instructor gets excited when you send them a message.
When taking a face-to-face class, you are learning along people who reside from similar demographic boundaries. When taking an online course, you are learning along people who reside from all walks of life across the entire country. Take advantage of your classmates and get to know them. Learn about their culture. Learn about the region they live. Learn their interests and network with them. Fill out the profile inside your course's learning management system. Add a picture of yourself. If you make it intentional to engage with your instructor and peers you will find the true power and value an online course brings forth.
A big factor influencing your life lies in relationships, networking, and learning how to communicate with people encompassing a multitude of diversities. Begin practicing this communication in your online course. You never know, you might develop lifelong friendships with your online peers or at the very least, broaden your network and lean on them later down the road when they, OR you, need support.
Finally, remember your online instructor is at a distinct disadvantage compared to your face-to-face instructors. Your instructor can not observe your non-verbal body language on a consistent basis or never if video conferencing is not used. You might be confused with an assignment’s instructions or struggling with a concept. Reach out to your instructor right away using the technological tools referenced earlier in the post. Your instructor is great, but they are human. They will certainly use the analytics provided to them from the learning management system to recognize when you struggle. However, you need to meet them in the middle and inform them when you need help. Remember, whatever reason you decided to enroll in the course, ultimately, you are there to learn. Be selfish and inform your instructor when you are not learning and require additional support. The instructor is there for you and not the other way around.
For more communication tips, check out the following resources:
Develop a Routine
Have you ever had a face to face teacher show you the class routine they expect you to follow throughout the year? Perhaps the routine looked something like this:
Perhaps your face-to-face routine looks slightly different. Regardless, routines help us remain disciplined, focused, and efficient. You need to develop a routine of your online course similar to the one you use in your face-to-face courses. Consider taking a glance at the organizer shown below.
You will notice the online student daily work routine organizer does not include verbiage specific to a time, day, device, or location. You are in control. You may choose when, where, and how you access your online course. However, the added autonomy creates more responsibility. You do not have a teacher providing you guidance in-person on a daily basis. For this reason, your online routine becomes imperative toward your success. Before you begin working, check for announcements, review your inbox, examine the course calendar, evaluate your grade, prepare your workspace, and begin working. Remember point #1 from above, “you reap what you put forth.” If you do not create a routine, you will find yourself haphazardly accessing your course, rushing to submit assignments, and perform below learning expectations.
Will you prefer online over face-to-face learning? Only you can answer that question. Your answer is perfect either way. Online and face-to-face learning should not be a competition but a complement to extend more choices for you. At the very least, your online learning experience will only make you a stronger overall student and productive member of our society. At the very least, you will learn how to
We hope you walked away from this post with one item learned. Onward and upward you go. Continue learning how to become a better stronger you in all your life’s daily actions.