How to Ensure Success in an Online Class
Your first online class can be one of the best learning experiences of your life—or the worst. As with any class, what you get out of an online class depends on what you put into it. Unfortunately, many students don’t realize that taking an online class has more in common with a job than it does with surfing the internet. Online classes generally have a higher workload, and more is expected of you. The bright side is that although online classes are challenging, some common-sense strategies will ensure your success.
1. Manage Your Time
Online classes are self-paced. You’re not required to show up at a specific time or be online for any amount of time. This means you need to have some discipline to avoid falling into the trap of “I’ll just log in whenever it’s convenient” (i.e., never). Set aside a specific time every day to read emails from the instructor and log into the class website. If that’s not possible, commit to a certain amount of time per day. Complete assignments early—that way last-minute technical problems won’t send you into a panic.
2. Read Everything
Online classes generally provide a wealth of information. If there’s a class website, browse it thoroughly. Read every single email your instructors send out—they may include links to valuable resources. But don’t assume that the instructors will spell everything out for you. If there are assignment guidelines posted on the website, it’s your responsibility to read them before submitting an assignment. Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of reading or other media? Think of your online class like an exciting treasure hunt rather than a chore, and just do your best.
3. Ask for Help
An online instructor can’t see bewildered expressions. If you need help or are confused, be proactive in asking questions. Is your question a general one? Post it on the forum rather than sending a private email. That way, others can benefit from the instructor’s answer—or your questions might even kick off a thought-provoking class discussion. Before asking anything, make sure you search archived emails or the FAQ pages. The answer you need might be right in front of you.
4. Make Friends
When your online class becomes a fun way to interact with like-minded people, you’re more likely to stay enthusiastic for the long haul. Tricky assignments don’t seem so herculean when you’re joking about them on the forums or problem-solving in a group chat window. And since your classmates might be from all over the country or world, you’ll get a glimpse of diverse opinions. Your online class can open your mind to new ideas and generate lifelong friendships.
5. Don’t Get Bogged Down in Computer Issues
Online instructors usually make allowances for tech problems that are out of your control. If you find yourself becoming frustrated with the computer, just take a break. On the other hand, don’t set yourself up for avoidable disasters. Always store work on your hard drive and save documents frequently, instead of inside an email program or website form. That way, if the computer or program crashes, your work can be recovered.
If you follow these five simple strategies, you’ll not only earn a good grade and master useful skills, but you’ll also enjoy your online class. You may even find yourself deciding to pursue an online degree!
Do’s and Don’ts of Online Learning
For students who are new to online education, it can be confusing to figure out the classroom protocols and etiquette. It’s important to remember that communication, respect, and promptness are just as important online as they are in traditional classes.
Here are some of the top do’s and don’ts of online education to help you succeed while staying in good favor with your professor and classmates.
Particularly in online education, effective communication is the only way to maintain positive relationships with the rest of your class. Read and reread all the instructions for your course assignments before responding, then make your answers as clear, concise and literate as possible. Ask for help if you need it, and provide help to others who ask for it.
2. Be respectful of the professor and other students’ opinions.
Some people seem to think that since the course is online, they can get away with snide remarks or a condescending attitude in their posts to the class. This will earn you the dislike of professors and students, and sometimes even get you kicked out of a class.
3. Be prompt and ensure you don’t miss assignment deadlines.
Don’t miss deadlines, period. Professors for online courses tend to be stricter than professors in “real life” classes. Unless you have a very good excuse and an understanding professor, late submissions of your assignments can kill your grades. Buy a calendar, use software, or set up some other way of keeping track of assignments and deadlines.
1. Underestimate the difficulty or time commitment an online education requires.
You’ll have to commit a lot of time and effort to learning online. While you might not have to attend classes like you would at a traditional institution of higher education, you still have to keep up with the course, turn in assignments, participate in chats and team assignments, and be a self-directed learner.
2. Be irritating on message boards and group chats.
In many classes, you’re expected to participate regularly in some kind of message board or chat and use it for finding the answers to questions before resorting to asking the professor. Before you begin using the message board or chat, read the rules carefully. You are often expected to use the “search” function to look for questions about the coursework that have already been asked and answered by others. Asking common questions that have an easily found answer is annoying to your professor and fellow students.
3. Go days without checking in on your classes.
When it seems like nobody’s checking your attendance, it can be tempting to just take a week or more off from classes and relax. Resist this temptation! Often, professors can and will take note of who accessed which modules or self-check tests, and you may also be required to participate in class regularly with posts to chat boards. Your attendance — or lack thereof — in class chats will be noted, and oftentimes attendance counts towards your final grade.
Distance learning can be an incredibly gratifying and personally fulfilling experience. Keep these crucial do’s and don’ts in mind while pursuing online education and you will help to ensure your success!