Online learning environment can seem intimidating to students who haven’t tried it. But, according to Dr. Jennifer Bachner, Director of the MS in Government Analytics and Certificate in Government Analytics, online learning isn’t much different than a classroom.
By employing a few essential strategies, any student can learn not only to succeed, but to flourish in the online learning environment.
Online courses are often attractive to students because they offer flexibility, particularly for those with demanding professional or personal responsibilities. This flexibility, however, can lead students into trouble. It can be tempting for students to delay working through the course material, thinking they’ll find time later in the week.
Opening and using these lines of communication will benefit you both during and beyond the course. During the course, it’s important to ask questions when the material or assignments are unclear and discuss larger assignments such as research papers. Use the mode of communication preferred by the instructor (e.g. email, Skype, phone) but don’t shrink away from these conversations.
Don’t limit your discussion postings to responding to the prompts posted by the instructor. Add your own insights and questions to the discussion. I always appreciate when students post a relevant news article or scholarly publication they’ve come across. These contributions help other students relate the course material to the real world and other areas of study.
In an online class, particularly for first-time students, there may be technical difficulties to overcome. Take the risk of these difficulties into account, and give yourself time to acclimate to new software and hardware. Further, give your instructors a reasonable amount of time to answer your questions. In an online class, exchanging emails or arranging phone conversations takes time. In short, expect that you will encounter hurdles when completing the work and leave yourself time to overcome them.
Just as with on-the-ground classes, there are many ways to design an online class. Research course offerings ahead of time to determine if the instructor, structure and material are a good fit for you. Some online classes, for example, rely largely on the discussion boards to further your learning while others make heavier use of group projects, individually-written papers or collaborative problem sets.