Whether this is your first or only venture into online learning or it’s a more permanent commitment for achieving your academic goals, taking online courses requires some adjustment. The face-to-face support and positive peer pressure that often helps students stay on track in a classroom can be substituted simply by engaging in new ways. Take on the challenge with confidence & set yourself up for SUCCESS with these tips:
Buy Your Books!
You don’t want anything to slow down your potential for success, and it can often take a little longer to receive course materials for an online class, especially if they are being shipped to you. Always check the OSU Bookstore directly for the materials & software that are required for your new class and order yours as early as possible. Waiting until Week 1 is too late.
Get into the course site and take a look around
Review your course syllabus for software/computer requirements.
Your syllabus holds the keys to learning success, maybe particularly in an online class where you will not have the benefit of weekly in-class meetings to keep you on track. In addition to all the good stuff found in a syllabus that guides you in other courses, pay particular attention to technology expectations. You may need to configure your computer or make sure you have guaranteed access to streaming tools like Adobe, Flash, etc. You can use the OSU Ecampus webpage Check My Computer tool to scan your computer for the minimum technology requirements.
Get to know the “flow” of your new online course.
Course organization can differ quite a bit online, just as in on-ground courses. Once you are logged in to your online course site, spend some time learning how to navigate the contents. Where are the lecture/lesson materials located? Do you have access to the entire course immediately or does a new folder open on a certain day each week with contents for the next topic? What are the weekly due dates and what will you be responsible for accomplishing each week? How do you access the discussion board and how often should you participate? Does your instructor hold office hours? Can you locate the special due dates for assignments, exams, projects, or synchronous class meetings?
How will you quickly get answers to your questions?
Knowing all of the answers isn’t important… it’s knowing where to find them when you need them that counts. Such is life! In asynchronous classes, you may find yourself online when your instructor is not. Is there a “Q&A Discussion Forum” or a preferred method for contacting the instructor, like office hours, stated in the syllabus? Do you know how to contact OSU Computer Help Desk in case of tech issues? Is there someone nearby you can designate as your personal “go-to” tech support in a big emergency? Make note of any tools offered directly from your course site to support your learning, such as NetTutor, Academic Coaching, and the OSU Writing Lab. Other resources to help you succeed:
Distance Support: Ecampus Success Counseling
On Campus Support: The Academic Success Center, 102 Waldo Hall
Print and get familiar with your syllabus
If you aren’t already using your course syllabus as a guiding document for your classes, you’ll want to develop a new habit of success when you take a course online. Your syllabus is your learning contract, unique and specific to each course you take, and it should include everything you need to know to set your expectations for self-managing your learning. Look for instructor contact information, required elements of your course (materials, exams, events, participation), due dates, project details, grading guidelines and rubrics, as well as a course schedule… which is especially useful for scheduling your days and weeks throughout the term.
Establish a regular study schedule
Got time? You should plan to spend 2-3 hours “in class” weekly for each course credit hour you are enrolled in online. In other words, make sure you have at least 6-9 hours for each 3 credit course you take, factoring in other requirements of the class. Unlike a campus schedule, you will need to designate your own class time and protect it from the rest of the demands on your time. Consider your full life schedule: family, community, career requirements so you can block out the hours you will be dedicating to your studies including completing readings and assignments, adding discussion posts, and preparing for exams. Let your friends and family know that you are unavailable at those times… you’ve got your student hat on!
…to the instructor
Most online courses offer an introduction discussion forum so you can interact with your new classmates. Make the extra effort to introduce yourself to your faculty, too. A instructor who knows a little bit about you is more likely to help you, to respond to your questions or to the situations that might come up for you during the term, and to remember you when you want to reconnect at a later date.
…to the class
Participate early and often with your classmates. It can feel awkward to get started, especially if this is your first online course, but doing so lets others know who you are and that you are interested in being active in the course. You will make connections more easily, develop a better grasp of the material, and if you have a question… what a great way to jump in early!
Use Effective Communication
Online communication in an educational setting should be a little different than the chat/messaging style you may use more commonly with friends. Be sure to get familiar with guidelines for “netiquette” which include using a positive tone, professional language, and clear and concise messages. Consider one more tip: be proactive. If you have not received a reply from your instructor or from team members online in a reasonable amount of time, contact them politely again.
Learning online can seem like “a whole new world”. When you trade your email address with at least one other classmate, you will be forming partnerships so that you can help each other understand the material better, get answers quickly to questions, remind each other of important deadlines, and just share in the challenges of balancing online learning and the rest of what your life demands.
Interested in what an Ecampus looks like and how to get around? Check out our course demo.