All posts by ahart

Preparing for the Worst: An Online Student’s Guide for Handling Emergencies


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A few terms ago, I had a brilliant student in my English composition class. She actively participated in all the discussion forums, she gave her classmates insightful and encouraging feedback, and she wrote with a passionate elegance. In short, she was an ideal student. About midway through the term, she disappeared without a trace. After weeks of silence, I finally heard back from her advisor: one of the student’s family members had passed away, and she was so distraught that she was unable to concentrate on her classwork. The student tried to make a comeback, but she didn’t have enough time to make up all the missing work.

Sadly, these stories are all too common. Many online students fall off the radar halfway through the term. It usually has nothing to do with their academic abilities. More often than not, students disappear because they encounter unforeseen challenges. Online courses vary in length, but most courses are around 8 weeks long. Although the accelerated format has its advantages, it can make it more difficult for students to rebound after experiencing a setback.

That’s why it’s important to come up with a game plan so you’re prepared to deal with the curveballs that life may throw at you. Here are some of the most common problems you may encounter during your online class and the best ways to deal with them!

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Want to Succeed in the Online Classroom? Ask Questions!

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A few days before the start of every term, I get an e-mail from some eager student wanting to know how to complete the first writing assignment. I’m usually still in my end-of-term grading haze, but I direct that student to the assignment guidelines and the rubric, and I assure her that she’s always welcome to ask questions. Inevitably, the student e-mails me back. She thanks me enthusiastically, and then, she issues a warning: “I’m going be that student who asks you questions about everything. Just want you to know.” It’s that student, the one who asks questions on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis, who usually ends up being the superstar of the class!

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