How to get the most out of your online college class.
I’ve been teaching undergraduate courses via computer for about a decade. Here are some tips based on my personal experience that can help you get the biggest return on the investment of your time and energy within this type of learning environment.
Because it is so foreign to the traditional face to face classroom model that students have learned to navigate most of their lives, students often arrive in an “online” class unprepared. This can create the kinds of obstacles that lead to less that the ideal conditions for learning excellence.
The traditional class has set days and times where the student is present and focused primarily on receiving new information and knowledge about the subject material. Their complete attention is committed to listening to the direction of an instructor and they face immediate consequences for not having prepared in advance by reading, studying, and note taking. Questions are addressed in a manner that allows for immediate clarification and professors are able to offer multiple examples which can help cement the learning of new concepts. Students can also employ multiple learning modalities in one setting by vocalizing their thoughts, hearing the information spoken, seeing visual representations of the content and writing down cogent facts that have significance.
The typical online class has no set day, no set time. Students must make a conscious decision about when, where, and even how they will engage with the material. That engagement is first and foremost, reading, reading and more reading! Any writing, listening, speaking or visualization are primarily brought about by the student deciding to add those aspects by introducing each of them on their own. Would the typical student know how to? Would they even recognize the need to do it in order to learn better?
Tip: if offered, attend an online orientation course.
These courses are designed specifically to educate students on the unique challenges online classes present so that students can equip themselves with appropriate strategies to do well.
Tip: Plan to study the first available day that you have for each learning module.
Each online class is divided into modules that take place over a number of days. Students who perform best start their work on the first day that the module is assigned. They read the assigned material. They take notes. They learn the definitions of new terms and they quiz themselves on key concepts that they have identified. Verbal quizzing – saying the answers out loud – is a good way to add 2 modalities. Reading and taking notes or highlighting is not enough by itself to retain a large enough amount of the information. By studying early, you allow yourself time to absorb new knowledge. In a few days you can review the material and find out how much you have already retained. This is critical for an online student. You can then take the remaining available time to focus on the parts you’ve yet to memorize. Also, you can ask questions or ask for any help from the instructor. Students who wait until the module is almost over to begin working have lost the ability to benefit from any of these practices.
Tip: Engage in the class as often as possible.
Many classes attempt to simulate the face to face dynamic that occurs with discussion groups and professor led seminars. This is done by allowing students to ‘text message’ one another during the module to exchange ideas about various topics. Instructors know how important this community building is for student success so they often provide detailed written guidance on how to interact with other students for maximum benefit. Many students do not follow the instructions. Instead they assume a level of participation that they think is required and commit to do only that much. That falls far short of the engagement needed to help not just the particular student but everyone else in the class as well. Imagine that you are in a traditional face to face classroom and the three other people assigned to your small group discussion do not say a word to you during the entire class. Even when you ask each of them a specific question, they just look at you and stay completely silent. Finally, after you have reached the point where you have given up all hope after patiently waiting for a reply – the instructor announces ‘time’s up’ and asks each group to report out on your discussion – your classmate whispers to you, ‘I agree with what you said’. What did you get out of that?
Tip: Reader; know thyself.
How good of a reader are you? What is your reading comprehension? There are reading strategies that teach how to get the most information in the shortest amount of time from textbooks. Did you know that? Do you use any of them? Colleges typically have the ability to score textbooks on their level of readability – how hard it is for the average student to read it and understand it. You should find out the readability of your class textbook and compare it with your own reading level. This will tell you how much work you have cut out for you. Ultimately, an online class will be based on how much reading you do and how much you are able to learn from reading. Here are 3 reading systems that I share with students. Try each of them and test your results. You can also modify them or combine the best parts, tailoring them to what suits you best.
I saw this popular image- Is the glass half-full- on a friend’s Facebook post and immediately thought of my students who have yet to declare a major. Whether you counsel or advise college students, parent them, or just are one, this nagging concern will not go away.
There are those among us who believe they know what they will be when they grow up and have no such angst. But for the rest of us, might I suggest some factors to consider. First of all so many in the current generation will not have the one and only career or two before they are through, but dare I say three or more? Going by that premise perhaps the best choice is to find a study that you 1) can excel in 2) have a passion for, and 3) will expose you a broad set of knowledge that could benefit you in several different areas.
While figuring out what you are good at could be fairly simple – having “passion” for school is not. It is quite a tricky hill to climb and often involves a fear that time will be lost, irrecovable time, major hopping with little or nothing to show for it in the end (beyond massive debt). So this should be where some amount of investment of effort could pay real dividends. There are books, very helpful ones, that can steer a person to what they would be most attracted to. Surveys can be found in the career counselling office or online. The military has been using them successfully for decades. These are not failsafe, and the person who says ‘I do not know at all what I want to do’ can find frustration instead of the answer that was hoped for.
Which leads to the third aspect of the decsion. Subjects that expose you to broad areas often avail you of the chance to learn about unfamiliar fields which you could transition into with some minor adjustments.
Employers agree that the degree you select should develop your communication skills. It should also bring out your creative juices. Hopefully it will help you learn to adapt to changing circumstances, to think critically, and to solve the problems in front of you. And if you want to know why professors keep giving group assignments, the answer is that to be successful in business you will not only participate in cooperative teamwork, but you will collaborate with others who need you as much as you need them.
While this is the short list, it is enough for you to begin your search. Here is a list of some of the degrees that are believed to bring out the greatest amount of skills useful for the widest range of professions. So look them over and find one that lines up with your scores in the first two areas mentioned above. Don’t worry if this list doesn’t work for you. Just pick one of the other degrees that interests you and see to it that you can get more than a diploma from the experience.
Accounting & Applied Math
This is worth sharing. Perhaps you agree.
This relatively small change provides an example of how slow progress is.
More on the rising cost of higher education.