All posts tagged student involvement

All About Synchronous and Asynchronous Online Classes

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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.

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Five Myths about Online Education

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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.

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5 Reasons to Choose Online Classes

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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.

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Digital Tools and Skills for Successful Online Learning

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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:

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Where to Find Help in Your Online Class

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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.

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Get the Most from Instructor Feedback on Your Assignments

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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:

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Daily and Weekly Routines in Online Classes

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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.

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So You’ve Signed Up for an Online Class – What Now?

photoOnce 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.

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Using Your Online Education and Involvement Experiences to Boost Your Resume

We’re back to the involvement topic, folks! My favorite subject to discuss when we’re talking about college education. It’s very clear I have a bias here, so you shouldn’t be surprised by this. However, I’m going to tie in student involvement with something I’m sure everyone cares a lot about – career advancement.

Online higher education draws in students that tend to have more of a focus on career advancement than your traditional 18-22 year old college students. You are here because you are taking your career, and your life, seriously – not just because it’s the step you’re supposed to take after high school. You have a much better idea of what you want out of this, and you’re going to do what it takes to get there, not to just get by. And that’s precisely why you have the power to both get involved outside of the classroom and to do it in a way that helps with your career path.

Let’s first talk about how your resume can be enhanced with student involvement, and then we can (briefly) recap what you can do to get involved outside of the classroom. So, how does this kind of stuff magically enhance your resume? Well, that really depends on how you put your resume together. Does your resume currently include sections like a summary, your educational details, your past job experience, and your skills? If so, that’s a great place to start!

The biggest tip I have is to simply add a section to that list for your affiliations and student clubs. This could possibly go along with a section for your volunteer and/or leadership experience. However, if you don’t volunteer, a) don’t include that section, and b) you should consider starting! Volunteering is a great way to boost your resume, develop various workplace skills, and give back to your community while doing so. However, that’s entirely up to you and your schedule – I just had to at least put the idea out there!

When it comes to a leadership section, this is something that may or may not work with your resume. If your leadership experience comes from your student club affiliations, you’ll want to consider which of those two sections best highlights your skills. Whichever you chose to include, the key is to absolutely focus on how those affiliations/leadership roles directly relate to your field/career and the specific job you to which are applying.

For example, let’s say you want to include an “Student Clubs and Affiliations” section. You were a member of the So-and-So University Accounting Club, and you’re a business major looking for a job in Corporate America. Not only do you list that club affiliation, but you include a few bullet points about how you co-presented in a virtual meeting on helpful tips for using Microsoft Office Excel, how you were a member of the newsletter committee and researched and wrote about various roles within the accounting field, and how you held a position on the executive board for a year of your membership. Suddenly, this unpaid, voluntary membership looks almost as impressive in the business world as your current job as an Account Manager – and you did it all while also working and going to school!

If you set your resume up with a section like this, and you have the experience to make sure it isn’t just an empty spot, it can be that little extra something you need to get your resume noticed. And if it works, and you get an interview, you’ve set yourself up to have entirely new topics to discuss with the hiring manager about the skills that makes you great for the job. The key is to simply make sure you’re including the right information in the right place when it comes to your resume.

So now that I’ve highlighted how you can use these student involvement opportunities to boost your resume, how do you get involved in order to get to the point where you can list your responsibilities in clubs? Well, I’m going to do no more here than link you back to my post from 7/16/13 called How You Can Get Involved Outside the Online Classroom. Check that out and start engaging outside the classroom! However, I challenge you to not only get involved on a surface level (join a club, attend a few webinars, etc.), but to actually seek out opportunities to create those bullet pointed skills. Run for office in an organization, volunteer for committees, offer to speak in a webinar on a topic you know well or are passionate about.

The great thing is that you are in a position where you can actually construct your involvement outside the classroom so that it works best with your career ambitions. After all, you’re attending an online college because you know what you want and you’re going to do what it takes to get there. So go for it now, while you’re still building your skills!

How You Can Get Involved Outside the Online Classroom

I have to start this second-part post with a disclaimer – each institution will have different options to get involved, and I can’t guarantee every suggestion I make here will be available at every online university. However, I strongly encourage you to begin to look into your options – and to look into the options available when you are still deciding on which school to attend as well!

So now you know why it’s important to get involved in college, but you’re not quite sure how to get things started. After all, as mentioned before, you can’t just walk into an office for student engagement or grab a flyer with the date and time of an upcoming student organization meeting. But never fear, this is still the internet and your online school’s website will have a lot of great information for you!

A good place to start looking, especially for those of you who are looking before registering at an institution, is to check out the university’s public website. Most websites will include a section about student experience. This is a place for universities to include information about “campus life,” services offered relating to your career search, student involvement and organizations, disability services, social media resources, information about events and webinars, and more. If you can’t find a student experience or similar section, you can look for some of those breakout topics individually as well. And don’t forget about the handy dandy search function!

Another spot to learn more about ways to get involved outside the classroom is within your student portal. This isn’t something you can see unless you’re enrolled at a university, but once you have access, I definitely encourage you to explore all aspects of your portal. Not only will that help you learn more about what your institution offers in general, but it will also provide you with details about how you can engage with the university beyond just your classes – you can find things like webinars that are only offered to students at the university or information on joining online clubs or access to a career network that provides resume building tools and more. Usually, what you see on the public website is just a hint at what you have access to as a student, so the portal often has more details about student engagement.

If you’ve been digging around on the website and on your portal, and you’re still not sure what is offered, you can always check your university’s catalog. Usually it will include basic information about the student services that are offered, including engagement and involvement opportunities. You should be able to use the catalog to find out what is offered – like student organizations – at the very least, even if that does mean you still have to do a little more research to figure out how to then involve yourself. Also, read those emails that your university sends you. I’m sure you get a lot, but you never know when one advertising a club or inviting you to an honor society or promoting a webinar on time-management might pop up – sort of like a virtual flyer! So keep your eyes open for direct communication from your institution too.

Finally, one of the quickest, easiest and most helpful ways to learn more about how to get involved at your institution is to ask someone! Ask your advisor, ask your admissions counselor, ask your instructors, ask your peers. Let your advisor or instructor know that you’d love to get involved outside the classroom and you’re interested in knowing what’s available. Even if they don’t have a direct answer, they should be able to set you off in the right direction. A lot of student organizations are actually connected to different academic departments and schools as well, so your instructors and peers within your classes can be a great resource regarding organizations that relate to your education.

Student involvement at an online school can be a more difficult thing to discover than at a traditional campus, due to the nature of the online campuses and the huge focus on academics (Yay!). Academics aren’t always the first things noticed with traditional institutions, so it can be easy to find out how to join a student group when they’re very present around campus. But by having to do a little research to see what is offered at your online school, you’re only enhancing your skills that can be related back to the classroom – after all, you’re doing research! – and allowing yourself to learn more about your university. It can be easy to log on, go to class, do your homework, and log off, so by simply looking for how to get involved outside the classroom, you’re already starting to engage with your institution on a higher level. Which, as we know from the previous post, has a lot of benefits!