Online Education is an increasingly popular option for students in higher education.  The flexibility afforded to students is one of the many attractive things about online learning, and there is something to be said for working around our own schedules. In my dealings with academic officers at VIU, I have come across a world of information that can prove helpful to students enrolled in online courses and degree programs. The over-arching theme of the dialogue surrounding online learning rests with this reality: a great deal of the decision about taking online courses will depend upon the individual and the kind of learner he or she is.  One of the great advantages of online learning is that it provides opportunities for students who are constrained by time and place. I have compiled a list of helpful tips for students who might be interested in taking advantage of the opportunities for online education. Read more after the jump:

  • Establish a regular study and learning schedule. Make these dates and times set in your schedule, and even mark them down on your calendar.
  • Share with Others.  Tell those who care about you (roommates, friends, family, and colleagues). You are more likely to stick to an online course if you have the people who care about you supporting you in the initiative.
  • Ask Questions.  If you do not understand an assignment, concept, technology, or any other item, do not be afraid to ask for clarification! Not asking will only help you become more confused and fall behind in the course.
  • Participate, Participate, Participate! This is crucial to an online learning environment. Remember that you have no use of non-verbal clues to communicate with your instructor by.  Your words on the screen will be the way your instructor ‘sees’ you  and gets to know you in the online classroom; express clearly not only what you know and your questions, but also how you are feeling about what you are learning.

“Your words on the screen will be the way your instructor ‘sees’ you  and gets to know you in the online classroom”

  • Be able to communicate well in writing. Address limited writing ability up front or as part of the online learning experience.
  • Have access to a reliable computer.  This almost goes without saying–if you have no computer, you have no access to your course! A high-speed internet connection is also strongly encouraged for online learning.
  • Be Patient.  Instructors are not always to answer your questions instantaneously.
  • Think your ideas through prior to responding.  Meaningful and quality input is vital in the online classroom and an essential part of the learning process. Remember that others will read what you have to say, so use words economically.
  • Check your work again before you hit the submit button! Make sure you have conveyed all points that you want to, and imagine how the reader will interpret your words.
  • Be Persistant!!! Remember that you are learning in a fairly new environment. Come forward immediately if you run into any glitches.  Most difficulties are easily resolved, but your instructor must hear from you in order to be of help to you.
  • Be self-motivated and self-disciplined! With the freedom and flexibility of the online environment comes responsibility. Make a commitment to the online process and be sure to follow through on this commitment.
  • Be willing to commit between 4 and 8 hours per week per typical course. Online learning is not easier or less time-consuming than face-to-face classroom learning experience. It is simply championed for being more flexible. Many online courses require more time than face-to-face courses.
  • Know what is expected of you. Be able to work collaboratively with others to complete projects. Be able to use technology properly. Be sure that you are willing to meet the minimum requirements for the course.
  • Pace yourself. Overloading your schedule is a bad idea. There is a reason it takes several years to graduate from a university. You are in this to learn, not just get a diploma.
  • Be Open-Minded. Sharing experiences and opinions is an integral part of the online learning experience.  The best online learning environment is one that is warm and friendly. Be courteous to your classmates, but also be willing to open up to them. You may find that this environment is very freeing!
  • Don’t. Give. Up.  Remain calm and your difficulties should clear up!
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