Stress is a common and normal reaction to unusual or demanding situations. Some stress can be good; however, too much stress can result in negative emotional and physical reactions. Learning how to deal with excessive or unnecessary stress can reduce these negative effects. We all have stressful situations crop up from time to time, but learning to handle stress is the key to avoiding negative physical and emotional reactions. School can cause stress in students of all ages. Sadly, we sometimes hear of students as young as elementary school age having headaches and upset stomachs related to school stress. College students can also experience high stress levels related to school.
Every class has a syllabus that is considered a roadmap of the course and contains all the information needed to successfully complete the course. Students are responsible for reading the syllabus in detail and understanding all the information. One part of the syllabus includes school and/or program resources and the other part of the syllabus is a guide to course-specific schedules, assignments, and grading. Review each course syllabus for the following types of information.
When asked about online group projects, the vast majority of students state emphatically that they don’t like working in groups. The primary reason for most students is that group work is not equitable and one or two students end up doing all the tasks. Another consideration is the difficulty in getting all group members together to discuss the project because most online classes include students in multiple time zones. Another challenge is communicating online, which has both advantages and disadvantages.
One advantage of communicating online is convenience; students can check in, post ideas, respond to others, and share files anytime during the day or night that suits individual schedules. The corresponding disadvantage is having to wait for all group members to post ideas or responses to questions, completed tasks, and suggestions for changes. In online group work, waiting for responses from group members holds up everyone’s ability to get work done in a timely manner.
Students in college can expect to read hundreds of pages of assigned reading per week. One of the myths that students bring to college is that reading something one time is enough. Another myth is that reading is all you have to do. The truth is that reading is a passive activity and if that’s all you do, you’ll be reading the same chapter over and over, trying to understand and remember the information. The key to remembering information is active reading, which includes writing, talking, and thinking critically about the content.
Active reading strategies “trick” your brain into understanding and remembering more of the reading assignment than if you just read every word in every section one time. Active reading takes effort and time; however, it will save time in the long run that you would otherwise spend reading and studying chapters multiple times because you don’t remember the information.
Online classes are the most convenient and flexible way to get a degree. One of the perks with online education is the ability to travel and take vacations while continuing with classes. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, online students need a lot of self-directedness, determination, and planning to be successful, and this is even more important if you want or need to schedule a vacation during an online class. Many online students are limited to when they can take vacation because of work or family obligations and very few people are willing to interrupt a degree program by putting off classes for 6 or 8 weeks just so they can take a 1-2 week vacation. With online classes, you can do both at the same time!
I have travelled while taking online classes as a grad student and am doing so now while teaching as an online professor. The key is in planning ahead for every contingency, making a schedule for school work, and sticking with your daily schedule. Here are some tips for continued success in an online class while on vacation or traveling.
Most learning in online classes takes place in the weekly asynchronous discussion forum. Most classes have specific requirements for discussions, including how many days per week students need to post in the discussions and which days they need to post. The general rule for posting messages is to write one posting addressing the discussion prompt and then write a response to 2-3 classmates’ original postings. The general rule for days posting and response due dates is to make the initial posting by mid-week and responses to two classmates’ postings between 2-4 days later.
Before participating in the discussions, students should prepare ahead of time by reviewing all information about discussions and grading in the syllabus. If a rubric is provided for discussions, review that carefully. It is a good idea to make a checklist of requirements so you can review and check each posting and response before submitting to the discussion area. Here are some tips that are relevant for all online discussions.
Every online course requires weekly written assignments and at least one, sometimes more, two-five page papers. All too often, students seem to see weekly course assignments in terms of “once and done,” meaning they write the assignments and then submit for a grade without going through the drafting, editing, proofing, and editing process. Based on comments by online instructors, it seems that most students do not proofread weekly assignments, instead relying on Grammar Check to catch writing mistakes. Students who take the time to follow the writing process for weekly assignments, and then proofread effectively, earn higher grades than do those who see assignments as a quick writing activity. Following an effective proofreading process has the added advantage of providing a schedule for completing assignments so that you are not rushing through an assignment at the last minute on the due date. The proofreading process includes five basic steps.
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.