Chapter 10 Online Learning
Many of the strategies for online learning success are the same strategies for success in traditional courses. Using all the principles described in this text to this point will contribute to your learning achievement. These include: enhancing personal wellness, utilizing your support networks, maximizing your learning strengths, using effective study skills, implementing effective test-taking strategies, using time management strategies, and accessing student support services as needed.
As well as these, there are a few strategies and tips that are particularly useful in online learning.
Before the Course Starts
- Computer access. Make sure you own or have frequent access to a recent model of computer with a high speed internet connection. It may be time to upgrade your laptop or computer. Otherwise frequent access to another computer could include a room-mate’s computer, library access, college computers, or a borrowed one. Note the key word being “frequent” access; you don’t want your schoolwork to be limited by someone else’s schedule or the library being closed at times you are most free to do school work.
- Writing proficiency. Much of your work and evaluation will depend on strong writing skills. Take the time before your course starts to review good writing principles or take a college course in writing skills to be able to start strong.
- Familiarize yourself with the online learning platform prior to the start of the course. Popular platforms include Moodle, Blackboard, Brightspace, and Canvas. Different post-secondary institutions use different learning management systems, so you may not necessarily use the same one that you used in a previous course from a different institution. They all have their similarities, so if you’ve used one, you’ll likely adapt quickly to another. However, it is nice to become familiar with the platform before the course starts. Often a course will open the platform to you a week or so before the course starts for exactly this purpose. You can get comfortable navigating around the course, finding the home page of your course, accessing grade books, and knowing where to access course materials. It helps to be comfortable signing in and out of the platform.
- Know course expectations. You can often read the course introduction and the instructor profile so you will know what to expect. You can read the course outline so you’ll know the grading format, how many assignments, essays, and tests to expect, and the number of modules in the course which can help you to lay out a schedule before starting.
- Get familiar with the how-tos. Once you have signed in to the course, figure out how to message the instructor, submit assignments online, submit forum posts etc.
- Bookmark the course page in your favourites for easy access. If your computer is private, save the passwords so that you can easily sign in and out of your course.
- Write your student profile. Many courses will ask you to introduce yourself to the class. You will need to write a short paragraph, which usually includes a bit about yourself, why you are taking the class, and possibly some of your interests. You will often have the option to post a picture, which is nice for classmates to put a face to the name. Most courses will ask you to do this in the first week, but it is nice to have it pre-written and a photo chosen, ready to post.
During the Course
- Sign into the course regularly. Sign in at least once every day. You’ll see important notices, deadlines, and forum discussions. This will help keep you on track. Your instructor can tell how often you sign in, so your instructor will know you that you are keeping current.
- Use the college library. Despite the fact that you aren’t on campus, the library is accessible to you. Librarians can assist you with research, and you can access numerous online articles, journals, and resources.
- Print materials. Many people are adept at using online resources exclusively. This is admirable for saving trees and being environmentally friendly. However, for some, having print copies of articles and research material in front of them can help with organization. If you need to print materials, do so sparingly, but don’t be afraid to print things you need for your assignments to make your work more productive.
- Make a schedule and keep it. This is important for all courses, but it is especially important for online courses. It helps to make a semester schedule with all the big assignments and tests mapped out. Then make weekly schedules at the start of each week, so that you have a specific daily plan for the week. It should include readings, forum posts, assignments broken into parts, test preparation and so on. See Chapter 7: Time Management for further strategies.
- Connect with classmates. If there is an option to connect with classmates, take it. Even if it is only a small number of connections, they will help you along the way.
- Ask questions. Take the initiative to ask your instructor questions if you don’t understand something. Chances are your classmates will benefit as well.
- Reward yourself. This is an effective way to keep the motivation going. After each assignment is handed in or each test written, give yourself a little reward to celebrate. It could be as simple as a square of your favourite chocolate or your favourite drink. It could be a walk along the beach, or an afternoon visit with a special friend. Decide what your reward will be and indulge each time you reach an important milestone in your course. Celebrate every time you complete a course.