Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants include students, instructors, administrators, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.
Many students (and instructors) are in their first or second week of a new academic term. What can they do to get off on the right fool in their online courses? Time waits for no one and the holidays will be here before you know it! This week participants created a list of “must do” tasks and activities designed to keep everyone on track and moving forward.
Success Starts Before the First Day Classes
- Get familiar with the technology. Become comfortable with the login process and learning management system (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, etc.). Learn how to use the software required in your courses.
- Plan how and when you will study during the academic term. Create a schedule that allows you to juggle all of your responsibilities – school, work, and family. Stay organized and keep track of assignment due dates.
- Read the syllabus! And keep it handy. You’ll want to refer to it throughout the course.
Supporting Student Success
- Participate in orientation courses and tutorials to get used to online delivery and communication. Components may include: introductions, syllabus review, an LMS walk through, quizzes (graded or non-graded), and more. Note to instructors: Non-graded options may be a good low-pressure approach to encourage students to get to know the environment.
- Look for modules, especially in introductory courses, with tips and how-to’s related to the learning management system, submitting assignments, etc.
- Instructors “need to be the ones to set the class and organizational culture,” creating a comfortable and encouraging learning environment.
- It’s not just up to the instructors. Academic advisors, student peers, and others are also available to help identify resources, provide support, and field questions.
Setting Realistic Expectations
- First weeks can be challenging when students find that online learning isn’t what they thought it would be.
- Students are often overwhelmed with the information being presented and the number of items they need to respond to.
- Instructors are instrumental in helping address concerns and encouraging students to move forward. “Acknowledging that students will feel overwhelmed in the first week helps.”
- Getting past the “syllabus blues,” that initial overwhelmed feeling, takes time, effort, and focus. Persist and you’ll reach a place where “the real learning can begin.”
- Keep in mind that you are “not just learning the subjects in the class, but also how to be online students.” You’re setting the stage for life-long learning.
- Stay on schedule with your reading and assignments that are due. Log in to your course site frequently (e.g., at least 3 times per week) so that there are no surprises.
- Thanks to Kelvin Thompson for suggesting this student success video series from the University of Central Florida: How will I succeed online, What can I expect in my online course, How will I connect with others online?, How important is communication in an online course?, and How often should I check my online course?
Communication, Communication, Communication
- Students: “contact the instructor right away with questions and concerns. Email tech support if available.” Don’t wait!
- Instructors: “respond to student questions promptly – ideally within 24 hours.” Your presence in the course “is just as important (or more?) online as in a face-to-face course.”
- Being proactive is helpful for both students and instructors, especially when reaching out in the first weeks of a course.
Check out our new resource! Introduction to Online Learning is a collection of posts featuring tips and suggestions for making the most of your online learning experience.
Thanks to @onlinelearningI, @ODU_DL, and @jimgrenier for participating in the live event. For more from the most recent live session, review the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page.
This week’s read-aheads:
Retention in Online Courses: Surviving the First Week from Timothy Clapper, The Evolllution Blog
10 Most Important Things You Can Do During Your First Week in an Online Class from Jamie Littlefield, About.com Guide
Get Your Online Course Off to a Good Start (Instructors) from Susan Biro, Faculty Focus
This week’s chat feed:
Image credit: tharrin, Flickr, CC-BY