The new trend in education training is online learning. Most of us maintain friendships through e-mails and Facebook, complete our banking online, and finish our Christmas shopping online. Technology has also made it possible to take classes online. I’ve heard some express their doubts about online learning. A decade ago, online learning was associated with buying a fraudulent degree, but now online learning is actually earning a respected degree or professional certificate. There is no dispute that e-learning is different from the traditional classroom/lecture hall learning, but different does not equate to bad. Internet learning can be a valuable tool to delve deeper into a particular subject – especially for full-time professionals. I’ve taken numerous UCSD extension online courses now. In fact, I’m earning a professional certificate that I’m completing entirely through online courses.
Online classes can be a bit intimidating at first. Not only do some participants have to adjust to lectures, exams, quizzes, discussions, and homework after decades of being in the work place, but they have the added component of navigating through the course load entirely online! But don’t worry, I have met people of all ages and computer skills successfully complete these online classes. Hopefully, the information provided below will better inform those of you who are curious about or interested in taking an online course.
Basics about online learning Format:
The format of online classes uses a platform like Blackboard where students can listen to lectures, retrieve handouts, take tests, and post on the discussion board. For the most part, it is user-friendly.
Who online courses are for:
Motivated learners. In a sense, online courses can afford more anonymity, less accountability, but plenty of independence. It’s possible to complete an online class but not truly learn anything. Instructors are not too strict on grading as long as assignments are completed from what I’ve observed. These conditions are ripe for completing only the minimum and turning in mediocre work for the unmotivated. This is why an actual drive for learning the material is important in online learning. Full-time workers. Online courses are well suited for workers who have a day job and a family to look after because it offers great flexibility. I could complete my assignments and readings during my lunch break or at night in my pajamas. I know mothers who accessed their lectures after putting all the kids in bed. The greatest advantage for online over traditional classroom learning is the flexibility. Online courses are incredibly flexible. Incredibly.
What you can expect from instructors:
All the instructors for the courses I have taken so far are experts in their subject and are enthusiastic about teaching the course. They truly want to foster a good learning environment. It is also apparent that some instructors have more experience facilitating an online course than others, so just be patient. You should expect instructors of an online course to be reachable through e-mail, the discussion board, and even virtual chat sessions. Because face-to-face contact is eliminated, instructors must be available to answer questions through e-mail or the discussion board. Many instructors will encourage discussion board participation by making postings count as a portion of the total grade.
Use the discussion board frequently
The discussion board is a great way – and often the only way – to get to know others in the course. Especially if the course is one in a series in a program, you’ll encounter the same classmates. Frequent posts on the discussion board will also help the instructor to get to know you beyond your completed assignments. Often times, discussion board participation is a part of the grade. An exercise for one of my courses required each student in the course to choose an occupational role in a fictional company. We had to use what we learned in the course to defend why our position in the company should be saved and offer reasons why other positions in the company should be outsourced. Everyone was really engaged in this virtual assignment and responded to each other’s post – especially if our position was targeted for outsourcing. Everyone had a great time completing this exercise and it was one of the most memorable assignments I’ve had.
Know your deadlines
Online classes are often asynchronous meaning that the lectures, assignments, and tests are available for the students at any time. These courses can be self-paced and the student can choose when to listen to the lectures and complete the assignments. Other instructors choose to give weekly assignment deadlines, although the assignments are all given ahead of time. Still other instructors choose a combination of both self-paced and deadlines. It all depends on the instructor so it is important to know your assignment, quiz, and test deadlines. I’ve also encountered assignment deadlines that have not been updated from the previous quarter or new instructors that set nebulous deadlines such as week 1 (does that mean due at the end of the week or the beginning of the week?). If the deadlines are unclear, be sure to ask via the discussion board or by e-mailing the instructor.
Print out the syllabus, supplemental material, and assignments
The virtual Blackboard containing all course material will only be available during the quarter/semester or only a short period afterwards, so it is important to have a record of what the course covered. Downloading the lectures and material onto your computer will also serve as a record of what you completed in the course. You can create a porfolio out of your completed assignments.
Type your work on a word processing program.
That way, after the class is over, you still have the fruits of your labor. I would recommend typing anything you post on the discussion board or during chat sessions as well. Again, it’s important to keep a record of what you did during the course because it may come in handy as you’re preparing for a job interview or creating your portfolio. Now that you’re equipped with more information about online learning, hopefully you’ll be motivated to try taking an online course on a subject you’ve always been curious about or to further your career growth!