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Strategies for Success in Online Classes

Online classes offer many benefits for motivated, disciplined students. Classes that "meet" asynchronously, meaning whenever students log on to their computers to participate, are valuable for students who cannot easily attend regularly scheduled on-site classes because of their jobs, their health, or other obligations. These classes have the same academic and technical rigor as their on-site counterparts. The following strategies should help you succeed in your online class or in any class that incorporates computer-supported instruction.

Quilt Fleur Small Follow Directions

Adherence to the criteria is important for success in college classes and in the workplace. Following directions is especially critical in online classes, where submission requirements for your coursework as well as the criteria for course projects depend on electronic mail and the World Wide Web.

Make outlines and checklists from the directions so that you can double check your own progress and so that you can ask informed questions about any elements for which you want clarification. As a result, you will be unlikely to lose credit for neglecting to follow directions.

Quilt Fleur Small Meet Deadlines

Students in online classes, like students in other academic classes, should plan to spend approximately ten hours a week on each three-credit-hour class. Because of the special requirements of electronic communication, including software and hardware access, you should strive to accomplish your goals well before the deadlines.

In a collaborative class, your missed deadline can interfere with the progress of a group and your work might not be accepted. Remember that an electronic submission is your attendance. Always have a backup plan for completing and submitting your work, for example, fax, postal delivery, or personal delivery.

Most people who take classes on line lead busy lives and are already good at time management. If you are not skilled at time management, consult with your professor, capable classmates, or a college counselor for some strategies.

Quilt Fleur Small Manage Your Work

Develop a file and folder structure for your word processing and e-mail. You might want a separate folder for each project and then subfolders for logical subdivisions. Keep portfolios of print materials carefully labeled. Keep all your writing and course materials until after grade reports have been posted.

Quilt Fleur Small Name Files Systematically

If your professor assigns a filename for a project, use it. You probably will use the 8-character-dot+3-character-extension filename convention (for example, skylarks.doc). As you draft, for every major revision, consider changing the last element of the name before the dot to a figure to represent the draft number. For example, for the file your professor says to name skylarks.doc, as you write and revise, name subsequent drafts skylark2.doc and then skylark3.doc for your own management system. Then save the final version you submit for credit as skylarks.doc. See Submission Formats for additional information on filenames.

Quilt Fleur Small Back Up Your Work

Save as you work. Save every time you leave an application. Save files and e-mail messages on your hard drive. Save a set on disks and keep those disks in a different building from your computer. Print a copy for your files. You can probably fit all the files from a single class on one floppy disk.

Quilt Fleur Small Ask Appropriate Questions

Many online classes depend on your asking and answering questions based on class activities and related experience and observation. If you are not sure about a reading, a project description, or a posting on line, ask for clarification. Your question may contain information or lead to an answer that helps somebody else as well as you.

For questions about course policies and your own progress, contact your professor promptly.

Quilt Fleur Small Check the Web and E-Mail Daily

If you are unable to check the course Web and your e-mail daily, at least alternate days are recommended. Otherwise, an online class might not be the most appropriate approach for you. Use public access resources if your usual service provider is unavailable; for example, use cybercafes, college libraries, or public libraries that offer Web access. Do not forget that you can also contact your professor and classmates by phone, fax, and postal mail.

Quilt Fleur Small Participate Regularly and Responsibly

Online classes offer rich opportunities for student participation and collaboration, and your electronic submissions enable you to participate in meaningful conversations and academic arguments supported by evidence from your observations and research.

For group projects, others rely on your involvement, and you can learn from your classmates as well as teach them through your considered and well-supported contributions.

Treat all your correspondents respectfully. Respect the privacy of your correspondents by keeping their messages within the class discussions unless you have permission to reproduce them elsewhere.

As a member of the academic community, you are expected to conduct yourself in person, in print, and on line in a responsible way and in the spirit of courteous educational inquiry. See additional information on netiquette. Report any questions or concerns to your professor promptly.

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