Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Advising Advice: How to succeed in an online course this summer and beyond

Posted on April 22, 2017 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By: Rusty Dolleman, Contributor 

As someone who has both advised online students and spent the last decade teaching online, there are a number of good practices I’ve identified among successful online students. A lot of it comes down to self-discipline and actually doing the work, but getting started the right way can make a big difference even before you even open a book.

In fact, success in an online course starts way before the class begins. Many students struggle simply because their expectations for the course don’t match how it will actually be run. It’s very important that, when signing up for courses, you check the course notes in Mainestreet to make sure that the course format will work for you.

Is the course asynchronous, which means that you can engage with the course on your own schedule, with no specific time requirements outside of due dates? Or is it synchronous, meaning you will have to be logged in at a certain time (to view lectures, for example, or take timed exams)?

Is the course entirely online, or is it utilizing a “blended format” with online work mixed with actual on-campus meetings? If you’re not absolutely sure which of these headings your courses fall under, you may end up taking a class that conflicts with work or family commitments without even realizing it.

Once you’ve logged into your course, read the syllabus carefully and print out a hard copy. Knowing what will be due when and how much it’s all worth to your overall grade is half the battle. In the courses I teach, many students “give away” by not doing minor assignments where they essentially get credit just for showing up. Make sure you’re aware of how content modules are organized. Are units being taught on a Mon-Sun cycle or is the instructor arranging the material differently?

Of course, it’s critical to have the right technology. If the instructor is using something other than Blackboard, test out all required programs as early as possible before using them for anything that will count for credit. Don’t use your phone to post to discussion boards — it’s way too easy to lose the entire post, or post something that will be poorly formatted.

Finally, every online student should be aware of and use university resources. USM’s Center for Technology Enhanced Learning has a number of useful links for Blackboard related courses, including video tutorials. You can even set up a meeting with a Technology Assistant for some Blackboard Instruction.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to University support systems, such as professional and faculty advisors, staff from the Office of Disabilities, Research Librarians and the tutors at the Learning Commons. Becoming familiar with these support systems before the semester begins will make your semester classes easier to navigate. I hope this article is helpful. Best of luck in all your learning, online or otherwise!

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