Just as in a face-to-face course, attending your online course is important. In fact, it may be even more important. In a face-to-face course, sometimes a student is physically there, but mentally "somewhere else." In an online course, there is little social pressure to be there or pretend to be there, but if you don't visit the course site regularly, you won't get much from the course and will find it difficult to get a good grade. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
- Check the course site regularly.
Even if you don't have specific assignments to complete, check the course site and your email regularly. Your instructor will make announcements, new postings will appear in discussion forums, and other plans may undergo subtle changes. Regular checks will help you remember all that you need to get done.
- Plan on spending at least two hours of work time for every credit hour that the course receives.
As a general rule of thumb, a course assumes that you will attend for as many hours are listed in the credit hours, then do homework and prepare in an equivalent number of hours during each week. In an online course, the distinction between attendance and study hours is removed, but the same amount of time is necessary. This is a minimum amount of time. In actual practice, many courses will take many more hours of study.
- Your instructor can tell if you are visiting the course site.
There are tools in Blackboard CourseInfo that allow your instructor to get general statistics about how often you visit the course site. Sometimes, they can even tell you have visited specific parts. However...
- You will have to show your instructor the quality of your participation.
Statistical tools in Blackboard won't let your instructor know if you understand what you read, if you enjoy or dislike aspects of the course, or if you are succeeding as a student. That is up to you. Your assignments, postings, and instuctor communication will show the quality of your work.
- You are expected to communicate with both the instructor and your classmates.
Don't wait to be asked to communicate. Send your instructor questions. Post messages to other students. Ask questions and share your ideas.
- Let your instructor know if you will be away.
Just as if you were not going to attend a face-to-face course, you should let your instructor know if you will not be accessing the online course for several days. Your instructor can remind you of deadlines you might miss or announcements or changes that might occur in the course while you are gone. They will understand why you don't participate in interactive parts of the course or log any hits on the course site. Most online instructors understand that those who take online courses need time flexibility, and will probably offer you alternatives to activities that you may need to miss.
- Ask your instructor to contact the Financial Aid office. If you are receiving financial aid and your award program asks for verification of class attendance. Ask your instrcutor to send an email message to the financial aid counselor to verify your participation in class. Click here for more information.
An online course requires special discipline. You can't depend on regular visits with an instructor to motivate you to keep up. Instead, you have to create your own schedule and motivations. Here are some suggestions:
- Don't procrastinate.
Students who fail in online courses almost always let themselves get behind. As a semester progresses, they get buried deeper and deeper. In the end, they take short cuts to finish or don't finish at all. By keeping up from the start, you'll find a rhythm of work and sail smoothly through!
- Develop a regular schedule.
Online learning can happen at any time and from many different places. That doesn't mean, however, that you have to take the course at any time of day. You'll do better if you set aside a block of regular time to get work done. Guard this time against interruptions just as you would guard the time to attend a face-to-face course.
- Print the course calendar and any other course schedules.
Put the important dates in your day planner or hang them up next to the area where you typically work on the course. Print other important course references and keep those handy as well. Keep an eye on which assignments are coming up and when you'll be moving on to the next section.
- Start big assignments early.
At the start of the course, determine which assignments are worth the most points or will take the most work. Set your own schedule for these assignments, dividing the work up into reasonable chunks. Your online instructor will probably remind you to begin working on time, but depend on yourself and the amount of time that YOU expect to take first.
- Complete assignments before the due date.
This is one of the biggest secrets to success in online courses. By planning to finish early, you prevent any disasters due to technical problems at the last minute. You will win your instructor's favor because they can start correcting your work early instead of having to do it all in a day or two. As a result, you'll get more personal feedback (and maybe a chance to fix your work if there are problems.) In the case of interactive assignments like discussion forums, you'll get much more feedback than those who post at the last minute.
- If you wish, ask your instructor if you can work ahead.
There may be some parts of your online course that must be done at the same time as other students, but in many cases you can work ahead. This may lead you to finish early, saving some of that precious time at the end of a semester when so many large projects are due.