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A crash course in online classes



Faculty contributing writer

BW_ShaelynnThe popularity of online classes continues to grow. Distance learning has really come into its own as something modern, accessible, and dynamic — instead of just being a way to attend class in pajamas.

The most popular feature of online classes is likely the flexibility they offer. While there will be deadlines, there is the absence of the in-seat, on-campus requirement, making it easier to fit into a busy lifestyle.

The first question that students often ask is, “Can I handle an online class?” If distance learning is new to you, the expectations might seem a little fuzzy. So how can you figure out if online classes are right for you?

Be honest with yourself about your time management skills. If you’re organized and disciplined, taking an online class will be much easier. However, scheduling will be necessary, since many online courses require work to be done at a certain point each week — and sometimes, at different points throughout the week. For example, a class might require a forum posting by Wednesday and again by Sunday. Because there’s no required in-seat time, some students have found it helpful to schedule a time each week when they’ll do the work for a specific course. If you’ve got three hours on a Thursday evening to set aside for a course, do it! Protect that time!

Your online instructors will expect you to have access to the Internet and a computer, and it’s a good idea to make sure you have 7 to 10 hours a week to devote to each course you take. For some classes, you might need more time, but 7 to 10 hours a good place to start.

Read the syllabus! Make sure that you understand all of the course expectations up front. There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing the test you thought you could take in Moodle actually has to be proctored. Your instructors will be up front about their guidelines and requirements in the syllabus, so it’s a really good idea to read it thoroughly.

Be prepared to interact with other students. Just because it’s an online class doesn’t mean that you won’t be assigned group work. Instead of face-to-face meetings, you might be communicating through Google Drive or a chat session.

Checking in to Moodle and reading email are daily things, especially in distance learning courses. It seems logical, right?

In an online class, using Moodle and email are really the only ways an instructor has to communicate with students. Therefore, a daily check-in is a good way to make sure you’re not missing vital class information.

Online classes can be really great, but it takes the same amount of devotion to be successful in online classes as it does for on-campus courses. If you’re still unsure if online classes are right for you, talk to an advisor or ask an instructor.

(Shaelynn Long-Kish is an Instructional Designer and Adjunct Instructor at MMCC. She also teaches classes online.)


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