Strategies for Online Courses

Before the Class Starts

If you're not confident about your computer skills , sit down with a computer savvy friend well before the start of the class to learn some of the shortcuts and strategies for learning and communicating online. Some of your computer habits might not be very efficient, and a quick tutorial with a friend can be invaluable.

Technical Issues

  • Talk to other students who have taken online courses for tips on how to manage the course.
  • Take the tutorial for the course so you don't need to ask the professor unnecessary technical questions.
  • Make sure you have extra supplies of printer ink and paper.
  • Back-up your files each time you work online.
  • Name your files clearly and use folders so you can find documents quickly.
  • At the start of the term, try to access every part of the course materials. That way you can work out any bugs early on.
  • Have a back-up plan in case you lose Internet access. Get phone numbers of one or two classmates so you have someone to contact by phone.
  • Make sure you have a pdf reader.

Be Actively Involved in the Material

  • If you are reading some of the materials online with the goal of understanding the big picture, read for a while and then stop to write a few notes in your notebook.
  • For materials that you need to read in more detail, print out the reading and mark it as you would mark a textbook, with notes in the margin and/or selective highlighting.
  • Don't hesitate to ask your instructor questions if you don't understand parts of the material. But do remember that your instructor might not be available to respond to you on the same day or on weekends.

Netiquette

  • With online communication, be more polite than you might be in person. It's quite easy for misunderstandings to develop online because you aren't able to use tone of voice or facial expression.
  • Be careful of what you say. Remember that anything you write to one person could be easily forwarded to others.
  • NEVER use all caps in your message.

Time Management

The most challenging aspect of online courses is time management. An online course can seem invisible , and it is dangerously easy to forget about the course and fall behind. Also, even when you do make an effort to go online to work on your course, it can be all too tempting to get off track and start accessing Facebook or another site. Use the following strategies to manage your time:

  •   Ask the professor how many hours you should devote to the course per week and do your best to come close to this number.
  • Treat your computer time for your online course completely differently than you treat personal computer time. In other words, while working on your online class, do not watch TV, talk on the phone, check personal email, surf the Web, or interact with family members .
  • Schedule specific times for your coursework. Inform people of your schedule and do your very best to stick to it. If someone asks you to do something during your study time, tell the person that you are “in class” at that time.
  • Print out a course calendar at the beginning of the term with all important due dates clearly noted. Also note times you need to be online for real-time discussions or telecasts. Post this calendar above your computer.

Procrastination

Constantly monitor your progress. If you see that you are falling behind, use some of the strategies below.

  • Each time you sit down to work on your course, make a list of what you plan to get done and a target time to finish the work . Try hard to meet your target time. You will be forced to avoid your email and other distractions in order to meet your goal.
  • Monitor each time you give in to a temptation or distraction by writing a tally mark on a piece of paper. Later, count up the number of these marks at the end of a study session. Many students find that a few sessions of this kind of monitoring will dramatically reduce the number of times they get off track.
  • If you are still having trouble keeping up, partner with one or two fellow students. Decide on a specific time that you will work on class material. Call or email each other at the start of the session and again at the end of the session to check on each other's progress.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be easily detected, and it is considered a very serious offense. Make certain that you understand what constitutes plagiarism. Never cut and paste something into one of your documents unless you use appropriate quotations marks and a citation. Even if you paraphrase another writer, you must document this, and your sentence structure and language must not follow the original source too closely.

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