Online learning is growing and more people find out that although it offers the wonderful flexibility of both time and space it is not easy to complete a course. I’m not talking about an eLearning training course which you can blitz through in a few hours, I’m talking about a week or month long course that is typically for academic credit.
Need some tips to help you along? These are a few that I put together from my experience as a student of 15 online undergrad and grad courses. The courses just got easier as I progressed through each of them.
This list will make it easier for you to complete the courses. You can start off where I ended.
- Set a time of the week that you will log in to your course and spend one 3-hour “class” online or two 90-minute classes. Let yourself out early some days.
- Know when you shine – I’m a morning person, so my time was set at 6:00am (yup). Take advantage of the flexible scheduling.
- Get a head start on each week – once you fall behind it causes unnecessary anxiety trying to catch up.
- Get involved in conversation, but don’t get overwhelmed. Set limits to how long you will be in discussion forums. For example: 30 minutes reading and 45 minus answering. You will see forums with “119 unread posts” – be selective and stick to the 30 minutes.
- Print out the semester’s agenda/curriculum and post it on your wall near your PC. Cross out completed activities. It’s a mental thing and works wonders.
- If possible, collapse the weekly content folders as you complete them so the workload in the LMS (i.e. Blackboard) looks less and less each week.
- Remember: This is your time in front of the computer and everyone will respect that. It’s time well-invested and you’re not being selfish. So, focus on the task at hand.
- In group work, reach out early and take initiative. Get at least one synchronous session in to put a face to the name.
- Get a study buddy! Ask a fellow student to peer review your work and vice versa. It really helps improve your work, motivates and keeps you on track.
- Remember, the teacher understands group work. It’s up to you to complete a group assignment – just notify the teacher about a member who is not pulling their weight and pick up the slack. Don’t sweat it. It’s a great skill that a good employer will notice and reward.
- At the end of your planning sessions review the tasks assigned so that everyone is clear about expectations.
- Take 10-minute breaks to stretch and reflect on what you’ve read or contributed.
- Get your face in your user profile, not your cat or bird or whatever. You will begin to expect the same from others. We will invest more effort always being reminded we are working with people and not just words on a page.
- Dress for success – prepare yourself as you would go to a physical class.
- Have a comfortable workspace
- Get rid of clutter
- Get rid of distractions (the PC is a distraction, but leave your cell in another room.)
- Have music you like to work with
- Have natural lighting
- Let your family know you are studying (so that interruptions are minimal – and they will bring you snacks and refreshing beverages…bonus!).
- For synchronous sessions use a headset and mic. Any Logitech is great.
- Don’t read articles or eTexts on your PC screen, always use a mobile eReader and make yourself comfortable. My all-time favorites:
- Nothing beats its power to make notes and highlight and readability.
- For ePubs, I recommend Prestigio or Google Play Books.
- Learn to use Calibre and convert material to a mobile-friendly format. PowerPoints and Word docs are the worst – convert them to ePub or PDF.
- Access your marked up mobile documents on your PC so you can just copy/paste juicy bits you want to reference in your assignments. All the noted apps sync nicely.
- Use technology you’re familiar with to complete assignments to minimize stress and reduce cognitive overload.
- Try new technologies when you feel up to it. Although they may not be part of a course – they can be “unintended outcomes” and excellent resources you can add to your toolbox.
- Use folders to organize course content
- Use bookmarks to separate courses and relevant websites
- Use to-do lists – my all-time favorite is Wunderlist, which syncs desktop and devices.
- Be clear about expectations. How many posts will give you a 10 in participation? How many words are required?
- Learn to write concisely in posts.
- Be brief in in your posts – it saves you time and your peers will learn from your example.
- Ask long-winded posters to be more concise (typically over 200 words).
- You don’t always have to be uber-polite, shake up a conversation. Almost all conversations in my courses were sterile – use tact and proper etiquette of course.
- Consider writing your posts on a word document and then cutting and pasting.
And a bit of perseverance…
Hopefully this helps.