Orientation for Online Courses

Part 2 – Experiencing Success in Online Learning

Succeeding Online Overview

If you have never taken an online course before, this section is specifically for you. The following will help you see the difference between online and face-to-face classes.

Preparing for Your Online Class

Online courses are a convenient way to advance your education. They are much like face-to-face courses because they have to meet high standards of instructional design quality and instruction, but the major difference is that online courses are presented using online tools with interaction occurring via discussion boards and online conferencing tools. Follow these steps to prepare for your online class.

Make Sure You Have Everything You Need to Start

Make sure your computer meets the requirements and that you have the peripherals (printer, speakers, microphone, etc.) and software you need. Most likely, you will be buying books and conducting research in your courses. Look at the bookstore and library websites so you are acquainted with what is available to you online. If you order your books online, remember it can take up to 10 days to get the book to you; so plan ahead.

Find a Physical Space for You to Work

Create an area where you can do your schoolwork. If you like to work in a quiet place with no distractions, take this into account. If you have a desk, clean it up, designate it as your “school space,” and make it comfortable. Stock it with items you will need: paper, pens, printer, stapler, etc. If you have a library near you, visit it to see if it would be a good place to work. You can also find out if they have WiFi or computers with Internet access you can use. A strong internet connection will be needed for all assessments. Public WiFi or hotspots may not guarantee a strong connection.

Know the Online Landscape

Visit www.barton.edu and learn what is available online. When you get your assigned username and password, log into Campus Connect (https://connect.barton.edu) and get an idea of what is in the campus portal. You will find a wealth of information that will help you as an online student.

Become Familiar With Your Course Layout

As soon as you get access to your course, click around to familiarize yourself with all of the information available to you. Read the syllabus at least twice, and become familiar with the grading guidelines and expectations of the professor. Copy all deadlines into your calendar and make reminders if needed. You’ll be amazed at how much easier assignments are if you understand what is expected and when it is due.

Managing Your Time

Schedule Weekly Study Times

The amount of time you spend per week online for class and preparing for class varies by the student and by the course.

  • A common guideline is that 1 credit hour of coursework is often equal to approximately 3 clock hours per week of preparation time.
  • A 3-credit hour course then would take approximately 9 hours a week outside the classroom. Remember to add the minimum of 3 hours per week you would normally have spent in class for a total minimum time invested of 12 hours per week.
  • Successful students often schedule a regular study time each week.
  • Schedule your most demanding study times during your optimal alert time (i.e., if you are a morning person, then spend that time studying your most challenging subjects).
  • Make sure you schedule recreation for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. It will only help you perform better when you get back to the books.

Plan Ahead

  • Schedule a time to make-up missed work on the weekend.
  • Make sure to plan for exams. Make sure you know and optimize your exam timeframe.
  • Balance your studying such that no subject is left behind.
  • Avoid cramming for tests by studying a small amount each day. Even just 15 minutes every night before going to sleep will help you retain material.
  • If your professor requires you to use new technology, test it out before the scheduled time to ensure your equipment is working.
  • Break down large tasks into small ones.

Log into the Course a Minimum of Three Times per Week

  • It’s a good habit to constantly check course materials and communications.
  • The more you interact with your classmates, the more you will begin to feel like a part of a community.
  • There are many ways to connect with online classmates. You can send an email to ask a question, create a study group, or use social media to collaborate.

Communicate with Your Professor

  • You can email your professor. Often, professors have a discussion board dedicated to student questions and ideas.
  • If you send an email, be sure to put your course number in the subject line. Faculty often teach multiple courses, so this helps them sort through the plethora of emails they receive during the day.
  • Before you ask a question, be sure you know what you are asking and why. Be clear and concise in your communication.

Managing Your Own Learning

In most respects, your expectations of online learning should be similar to those of a traditional classroom. You should expect quality education delivered by qualified, concerned faculty; but you should also expect to assume responsibility for your own learning. Here are some tools to help you.

Study Skills

Through study, you discover new and important information. Online classes require students to be self-motivated and to have strong study skills to be successful.

Your Personal Learning Style

There are many types of learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, to name a few. Identifying your preferred style may help you assess which learning environment is best for you. Students who benefit most from an online learning experience are independent learners who are highly motivated and possess strong time management skills.

Study Skill Strategies

Like all skills, study skills are perfected over time through consistent effort. There are, however, some common tips that will help you to develop good study habits:

  • Turn breaks and snacks into a reward system for studying well.
  • Join a study group: divide up work, share ideas, and test each other.
  • Use flash cards: put questions or equations on 3″ x 5″ cards. Put a question on one side and the answer or data on the other. Go through the stack discarding the cards you know, until you know the material on every card. Carry the cards with you as a portable “notebook,” and review them in spare moments.
  • Use lists, charts, and diagrams: after reading your notes or textbook, see if you can rewrite the information in a new way; now reproduce these ideas without looking at your notes.
  • Listening to music seems to help some students; however, studies show that slow, soothing instrumental music works best. Save more intense types of music for a reward.

Be an Active Reader

  1. Highlight important or key phrases and words.
  2. Use margins for writing questions or comments.
  3. Make notes on major concepts or points.
  4. Read it aloud. When you’ve finished reading the chapter, go back once more and read aloud the material you highlighted along with the notes you made in the margins and the notes made on major concepts.
  5. Review. Give the highlighted material and your notes one final read.



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