Let’s face it – we all procrastinate at some time or another. Reasons vary from mismanagement of time, organization, and distractions, to disinterest in the task and fear of failure. If you need to figure out why you procrastinate, there are excellent articles and resources online to help with that. Usually though, addressing these issues is easily managed with an organization plan that includes five key factors.
Online classes can seem isolating to some students. Sometimes this doesn’t matter a lot if a student sees colleagues at work every day and spends a lot of time with family and friends. Social media also keeps people from feeling isolated online. Even with all this interaction with others, many students feel isolated and alone in online classes. To their way of thinking, there are no stops for coffee before or after class, or study groups, or appointments for extra assistance with the professor, or just simple chatting about things not related to class topics.
Students can, however, make connections with their peers in online classes and, in many cases, make new friends. I have friends whom I have never met in person and yet have known for 15 years, keeping in touch via email, phone, and chat conversations. Today, this is much easier than it was 15 or even 10 years ago when social media was not a communication option as it is now.
Online classes are usually either synchronous or asynchronous. Some courses may be a combination of both. There are also blended courses for students who want a limited amount of on campus attendance but prefer to do the rest of their work online at home. Blended courses and synchronous courses are good choices for students who wish to have a transition path from on campus attendance to fully online study. There are also independent study courses, taken online, for students who prefer to work at their own pace, either faster than a traditionally-scheduled course or at a slower pace as best fits their own schedule.
Students have different preferences about which type of course they prefer. Let’s talk about how each type of course works.
People have a lot of preconceived ideas and beliefs about online education. Among those beliefs are that online education is easy and that students are isolated from their peers and instructor. The truth is that accredited online education is academically equal to traditional education. Here are five of the most prevalent myths about online education:
Myth 1 – Online classes are easier.
For most students, online classes are actually more time-consuming and, in some cases, more difficult. The reason is very simple. Sitting in on-campus classes involves most listening and speaking; very little in depth reading and writing is done in class. In online classes, in depth reading and writing are necessities since all work is done at home on the computer.
Students take online classes for lots of reasons, although those new to online classes may not fully understand the differences between online and on-campus classes. Do be sure to check next month’s posting to find out about the myths surrounding online classes. The differences in the two types of classes are some of the very reasons that students describe as their reasons for choosing to do part or all of their education online. Here are the top five reasons for choosing online classes.
1. Convenience: The top reason is avoiding the time needed for commuting to and from school, which can save hours throughout the week when managing school, work, and family activities on a daily basis. Some students report saving as much as 5-10 hours a week in commuting time and they can apply that time to studying.
Computer and technology literacy is a requirement for successful online learning. Without these skills, successful completion of online classes can be negatively affected. Think about it: if you can’t save and name files, or upload and download file attachments, then you can’t submit your assignments. If you are constantly figuring out how to use a specific technology tool required for your assignment while you are also working on the assignment, the time spent will be doubled or even tripled. It is to the student’s advantage to be proficient with technology prior to taking an online class.
In my role as an online professor, I see students who enroll in my online class without the most rudimentary technology skills. I have worked with students who did not know how to name files and set up folders to organize class documents. Some students sign up for class and do not even own a computer. Other students have computers but only for Facebook or other social media. These situations contribute to the difficulty of an online class.
Succeeding in an online course or program requires proficiency in multiple areas of digital tools and skills. Learning to use technology after starting an online class puts a lot of stress on students; it is far better to learn technology skills before taking your first online class. Many schools offer tutorials and webinars on technology and library tools and skills. There are also many free online resources for learning how to best use the technology you will need for school. The following are the basics you will need to know before starting your first online class:
Online classes are different from face-to-face classes in a lot of ways, many of which we will talk about at various times on this blog. One of the most obvious differences is not being able to ask questions in class or go to the instructor’s office and get immediate answers. When you ask questions in an online class, often the wait time is the next day and sometimes more than one day. This is frustrating to students who want answers in order to move forward with their assignments. If answers and solutions are not forthcoming in a timely manner, there are several options for finding help.
Before asking questions, students need to make sure they have read all the information posted in the class. Required reading includes the syllabus, specific textbook pages each week, online or database articles, handouts, or additional resources posted by the instructor. While students may be frustrated when they don’t receive immediate answers to questions, keep in mind that instructors get frustrated when students ask questions about information that is clearly stated in the syllabus, announcements, or required reading. Instructors will sometimes respond with “Please check the syllabus (or announcements or other place in the course) for that information.”
Here’s a short list of resources and contacts for those times when you need help with your online course technology, course content, or writing.
Criticism is an integral part of academic success. No one likes to hear negative criticism about their work; however, negative feedback is an excellent way to learn new skills and to help you demonstrate your ability to learn. Implementing feedback suggestions in future work shows that you are open to new concepts and ideas and willing to work hard to reach expectations. Unfortunately, many students react to criticism as if the feedback were a personal attack. Recognizing that criticism and critique are about YOUR WORK and not about you, helps students develop a good attitude about receiving critiques.
Students need to understand and accept the purpose and goal of feedback. The purpose is to instruct students on skills and concepts that need improvement. The goal is for students to study and learn the new concepts or new skills, and then implement this new learning in future work in the class. Read the feedback with an open mind, set it aside for a few hours, then review the comments and suggestions again.
Here are some helpful strategies for getting the most value from your instructor’s critique of your work:
Classes on campus are scheduled at the same time daily or weekly. Students go to class and then work on additional class activities and assignments outside of class. Online classes are different because there is no class attendance scheduled each week. Although some classes do have an hour each week of virtual class time where everyone meets online together, this is usually optional and if schedules don’t work out, then students can review the archives for class meetings at a later time. Even though attendance at a specific time and place are not required, online students still need to have a schedule for completing the class activities and assignments. Not having a schedule can lead to procrastination and late assignments.
Routine and repetition increase successful learning. Students who put off academic work until the weekend, and then complete everything in one or two days, are not as successful as those students who work on class activities and assignments every day of the week. These class activities and assignments include participating in discussions, writing essays, taking quizzes, reading, and taking notes on weekly learning resources.
Once you have registered for an online class, what’s the next step? When can you access the class, read the syllabus, and order the textbook? All of this information should be available when you register for class. Most schools open online courses several days before the official start date of the term. This gives students extra time to check technical requirements and make any contacts that are necessary (academic advising, disability services, tech support, bookstore, etc.) before class begins.
Waiting until the first day, or perhaps a day or two after that, to log in to your class can potentially delay your ability to complete the first week’s work on time and that is not a good way to start out a course. Aside from being late, there is also the risk of making a poor first impression with the instructor and your classmates.
Here are five steps to a stress-free and successful class start that ensures a good first impression and timely completion of the first week’s work.