Tips for Taking Online Courses

Taking courses online can be a little like taking courses in a foreign language. Most of us are still learning the norms and expectations of the online environment. Even though the technology is wonderful and exciting, we would never say that this environment is the right learning environment for everyone. It provides exciting opportunities for people who are constrained by time, location or other factors. To see if online classes are right for you, answer these questions:

  • Do you like to work independently?
  • Are you persistent?
  • Do you need convenience and an adjustable schedule?
  • Are you comfortable asking for clarification and continuing to ask when you need more information?
  • Are you comfortable working at a computer?
  • Are you comfortable working primarily with a text-based medium?

If you answered "yes" to most of those questions, then you should do well in the online learning environment. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your course:

Reading is Key

Remember that you won't have all those non-verbal cues that you get in the physical classroom and neither will your instructor. Also, your instructor's role will be much less that of the distributor of information, and much more that of a guide or resource for you in exploring an area of knowledge. Almost all your information will come in the form of words.

Communication is Key

As always, effective communication is critical to success. It's even more important in the online environment because your instructor can't see your frown, or hear the question in your voice. Here, you'll be responsible for initiating more contact and for being persistent and vocal when you don't understand something. Your instructor wants to help --be direct! You will save a lot of time, and both you and your instructor will know better what you intend.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Take time to review all the help files available.
  • Spend some time just navigating your way through the class and making sure you can figure out what the buttons do.
  • Manage your time. You will find that your time management skills will be critical in an online class. It is very easy to spend either far too little time or far too much time on the material. Set designated blocks of time to work on the class. This will help you stay up with the assignments and help with retention.