As I begin wrapping up the Spring semester with my online students, I realize that there are a few things they could do to bring the experience to a close and document all that they have accomplished in the course.
Working through online courses, especially those on an accelerated schedule, can seem like a blur when you look back after it’s all over. And many online students juggle their coursework with other busy calendars as they fulfill work and family obligations. As you complete your current courses, take the opportunity to capture what you have done before moving on to the next academic term.
While it may seem like your to-do list is already overloaded, time spent now reflecting and organizing can help prepare you for your next course and other upcoming tasks related to careers and employment.
Document Ideas and Experiences
Make a few notes about your overall experience in the course and include a few of the following items:
- Identify something brand new. What did you discover in this class? It may have been a new technology, social media platform, author, publication, concept, or even conversation topic that introduced you to a new point of view. Is there a specific subject you touched on during the course and want to learn more about?
- What was the most important thing you learned? Educator Nicky Hockly presents this question as a class activity, but it could easily be adapted for individual use. If you had to describe what you gained from the course in one sentence, what would you say? Add this to your notes and consider keeping a running list of these sentences for all of the courses you complete.
- Share your thoughts. You can take your documentation a step further and publish your thoughts about your experience for others to read and react to as a brief post on your blog or update in an online learning community.
Prepare for Career Development and the Job Search
As an online student you likely enrolled in your academic program with specific career goals in mind. Whether you hope to advance in your current field or transition to a new career, think about how each course contributes to your skills and knowledge as you proceed with these activities:
- Add to your portfolio or career diary. Choose one item from your course, such as a paper or project, and include it in your learning or career portfolio. (If you haven’t yet started such a collection, why not begin with this course?) Think of these as work samples that demonstrate your skills and abilities with the subject matter, as well as working with technology and in virtual groups.
- Expand your network. If you haven’t already done so, reach out to instructors and classmates with whom you’ve worked throughout the term to see if they are willing to connect with you through an appropriate social network like LinkedIn, etc. Don’t forget to include internship or practicum supervisors and co-workers who may be helpful career advisors and resources moving forward.
- Update your resume. It’s a good idea to keep your job search documents current so that you can react quickly to any new opportunities that come up. If you gained new skills in this course, add them to your resume, along with a list of completed courses that are relevant to your career goals. You may want to update your social networking profiles with this information as well.
Connect Learning to Past and Future Courses
Taking one or two courses at a time can make it more challenging to see how they all work together as part of a unified academic program. Here are a few ways to connect topics, concepts, and resources across classes and assignments:
- Save favorite links. Find a method that works for you and create a central place to locate the sites, articles, etc. that you return to over and over again. Bookmarking tools like Diigo and content curation platforms like Scoop.it are just two options available.
- Organize your files. Whether they are paper or digital in nature, review all of the documents you worked with during the course and decide what you need to keep and what you can delete. Use keywords to name files and tag websites so that you’ll be able to more easily retrieve them in future courses.
- Decide what worked and what didn’t. Make a list of dos and don’ts based on work in your current course. These could address anything from study habits and time management strategies to class participation and technology use. What should you do differently next time?
- Reflect on the overall experience. How does this course compare to the one you took before it? Think through the connections, similarities and differences, as parts of a whole curriculum. You may even want to discuss your take-aways with a faculty advisor as you review your degree plan.
Contribute to Course Improvement
Last, but certainly not least, complete the end-of-term evaluations. As discussed during a recent Inside Online Learning chat (#IOLchat), this is one of the primary ways you as a student have to provide feedback on the course materials, instruction, and technology. Your instructors and school administrators rely on these surveys to identify problems and opportunities for improvement. What would you recommend so that future students in the course have a good experience?
The last several weeks of any class can be hectic and I admit that this is an ambitious list. It’s not realistic to expect that you could do all of these things after every course, but maybe you could pick just one new technique to wrap-up your current course and transition to your next learning and career adventure.
Image credit: Courtney Dirks, Flickr, CC:BY