By JEREMY BOND, Faculty contributing writer
This past October, a survey at Northeastern University revealed some interesting realities about “Millennials” (18-29 year-old adults) and online learning. The survey reports more than half of the 1,000-plus millennials surveyed have taken at least one online course and a majority holds a more positive opinion of online learning than older counterparts.
In my opinion, it is only logical that younger adult learners are developing a more positive outlook toward online education. This, for the most part, is a generation of learners who grew up immersed in technology, with access to the best online learning available. Yet, online learning’s most desirable aspects – “flexibility and convenience,” according to many sources — are often what present learners of all ages with the most challenges to success.
As an educator of nearly 13 years, I find the traits that serve students in face-to-face learning are also useful online. The most disciplined learners seem to always shine, proving Thomas Jefferson’s words, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Still though, are there not some strategies which can be beneficial in the online classroom? In a word, yes.
Time-management skill is crucial. In an online class, time which would have been spent “in-class,” must be managed by the learner. Years ago, as a novice online learner, I discovered that doing coursework whenever I wanted often translated to never doing coursework. To overcome procrastination, buy a planner, download a calendar app, or set yourself up with Google calendar. With your course syllabi in hand, enter due dates and reminders, but don’t stop there. Make this type of planning part of your student and personal life. Gradually, your calendar will become a trusted companion.
Communicating effectively can also be a determining factor for online success. While you may have opportunities to quickly come to an understanding with an instructor in-person, email exchanges provide no such opportunity. Instead of sending an email which reads “I’m struggling with the homework, can you help me?” make concerns clear, writing instead, “in chapter nine’s homework, item 6, part b, I’m struggling with finding a solution. I consulted page ##, in the text and I’m still confused. Is there something else I could review to get past this?”
It’s also important not to overlook little courtesies. Greet your instructor, sign your messages, and indicate the class section (e.g. BIS 264 Online). Just as learners are enrolled in multiple courses, instructors are often teaching multiple courses. These techniques should also be adapted when leaving voicemail.
Commit to starting early, staying the course, actively participating, and asking for help when needed. Following the advice above will not guarantee success – nothing does. It will, however, provide the best of advantages.
(Jeremy Bond is the manager of learning management systems instructional support at Central Michigan University, Global Campus faculty, and an adjunct instructor at Mid Michigan Community College.)