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Online learning is an increasingly popular way to complete coursework in our technological world. It is the delivery of courses entirely online, with little to no requirement for the student to show up on campus. Instruction is delivered using textbooks and online resources, assignments are turned in through learning management systems, as are exams, often proctored using online monitoring services.
To help evaluate if you are prepared for an online class, answer the following questions with a Yes or No. Keep track of the number of “yes” answers and then scroll down to see what your answers say about your readiness and why these issues are important.
If you answered yes:
|8-12 yes||You are in good shape. An online class should work well for you.|
|5-7 yes||You are on the right track, but you may find online classes more challenging than you thought. Read below about the skills you need to succeed and try to work on the areas you are weak to improve your opportunities for success.|
|0-4 yes||Warning: Unfortunately, an online class may not be the best choice for you right now. You may be better served with a face-to-face class while working on some of your skills below to improve your chances of success.|
Let us review why these issues are important.
1. Considering my personal and professional schedule, I have as much time to devote to an online class as I have to a class on campus.
These classes are full collegiate classes, covering the same material that a face-to-face class covers, with the same academic rigor. For the most part you will complete your work on your own schedule, though with the same deadlines as you would find in a face-to-face class. Much of the work is on your own schedule, though some classes may have set times for the class to meet online as part of the curriculum. The workload is the same, so you need to budget the same amount of time each week as you would to attend class on campus and complete readings and homework, often 8-10 hours per week per course, with more hours per week for shortened semesters (summer, winter session).
2. I have reliable access to a working computer and Internet access.
It is vital to have access to a computer and Internet connection for the duration of the course. E-mail will be a major communication tool. While apps allow you to access your course on a phone or tablet computer, you will also need a computer to create documents to turn in for assignments and to access some online resources. Your computer needs to be in good working order. If you have viruses or malware, have your computer cleaned before classes start to keep it running properly for your course. See the Technology Requirements page for more information.
3. I am comfortable with using a computer, computer programs like Word, and e-mail.
While most classes do not require specialized software, you must be at ease with using your computer. This includes being comfortable with using the Web, signing in and out of resources, know what a browser is and how to use it, how to deal with browser pop-ups and pop-up blockers, being able to create documents with Microsoft Office as required for assignments, and be able to do research on topics online (evaluating information, not just relying on Wikipedia). If the class requires specialized resources (software, Web site resources) you are able to figure out material without hand-holding and search for solutions using help resource, and looking online.
You also need to be able to use your Delta email, attach files to your email, scan your work using a scanner, camera, or smartphone, and be able to take screen shots of your computer screen in case you have problems online. Importantly, you need to know how to manage your computer and keep it safe from viruses and malware.
As an online student, all your academic life is conducted through the Internet. This includes your application for admission, your advising and registering for classes, applying for financial aid, paying your bills, ordering your textbook materials, and of course taking your classes. You must be the one to keep track of deadlines and take the initiative to keep up with your education.
4. I can type adequately.
You will be typing. A lot. Assignments, discussions, and exams all will utilize typing much more than for a face-to-face class. You are better served if you can confidently express yourself by typing to create accurate submissions. (Don’t forget spell checking.) If you are feeling unsure, there are several good, inexpensive typing training software programs available online and at office supply stores.
5. I am a good reader. When I read, I generally understand the text without help.
Due to the nature of an online course, you will be doing most of your work through the written word. Your textbook and supplemental material will generally be written as will your assignment instructions. Without an instructor to orally explain material to you, the need to understand the written word falls to you. Even asking for clarification usually comes through written form, so the ability to read at a good pace and comprehend what you read is vital (and when you don’t understand something you are able to ask a question).
6. I am self-motivated. I do not need an instructor standing over me prodding me along.
Because you are not physically going to a class meeting at a set day and time, it is your responsibility to keep up on your reading and assignment due dates. Even when other factors in life occur, the assignments need to be completed on time. When taking several classes, you need to keep track of all due dates, course work and exams. Just like in face-to-face classes, “I forgot” does not cut it. Many instructors will not accept late work. In most classes your work will be due on a specific date (possibly on a Saturday or Sunday) by a set time and it is your responsibility to turn in your work in the available assignment window.
7. I am interested in the course subject and am eager to learn more about it.
If you are not interested in the course subject, an online class may not be the best choice. We tend to put off what we are not enjoying or are interested in, and you may find yourself scrambling at the last minute to complete assignments. A face-to-face class may be a better choice for that class. If you are not as engaged, be sure to double your effort to stay on top of your work.
8. I am not afraid to ask questions when I do not understand something.
Being in a virtual space may seem intimidating but remember that everyone else is in the same virtual boat. If you have questions about course material or assignments do not hesitate to ask, either directly to the instructor through question forums if the instructor has established one. In face-to-face and online classes, do not be afraid to ask – your question is not stupid, and people will not make fun of you for asking it. If you have a question about the course, be sure to check the syllabus first to see if the instructor has answered the question already. Be sure to be clear and concise in your question, identify the course you are referring to and to sign your name to the message.
9. In general, I have my assignments done on time, if not early.
Most classes will have assignments due on a set date and time. The day of the week and time may change from assignment to assignment. Due dates may be on a weekday or a weekend and due times may be at any hour (the end of the day at 11:59 p.m. is common). If you are in another time zone, make sure you adjust your planning to reflect the Central Time Zone deadlines. You must stay on top of your work and try to complete work ahead of the deadline. If you wait until a couple of hours before the deadline you run the risk of the computer breaking down or dying, your Internet connection going out or a sudden event demanding your time. Many instructors will not accept assignments late, and without planning you may find yourself rushed to complete an exam before it closes.
10. I regularly use e-mail to communicate.
While an instructor may have time for face-to-face interactions on campus, use tools like WebEx, Zoom, or the telephone, your primary communication with your instructor most likely will be through messaging in Canvas or e-mail. It is important that you be able to use netiquette, write clear and concise messages (using proper spelling and grammar), identify what course (and section) you are speaking about, and to sign your name to the message. Remember, these communications are one of the few ways your instructor can get to know you. Proofread your message and avoid using text-speak – your professionalism shows you are serious with your message. Also avoid writing in all caps – it comes across as shouting and angry to the reader.
11. I am comfortable working by myself without being in a classroom with my classmates.
Working on an online class can be a lonely activity. Sure, you may have discussions with classmates using forums, but most days you are sitting down and working one-on-one with your computer. Many students prefer the feeling of being in a classroom with the intellectual community of classmates. It’s a lot easier to lean over and whisper a question to a classmate when you’re sitting next to him or her. Use your class area to find others to work or chat with outside of “class.” Some classes will have Introduction forums where you can get to meet and know your classmates. Your classes also have a “People” page where you can get to know your classmates through their profiles on Canvas and contact people outside of class to talk, collaborate or study together.
12. I have strong written communications skills.
Most, if not all, of your work and interaction with your class and instructor will be written. Your ability to communicate well becomes important on all levels of the class – communicating your ideas clearly on forums, asking questions of classmates or your instructor clearly, and communicating your thoughts and answers to assignments in a professional manner. Most assignments will include grading criteria evaluating whether your assignments communicate your answers in a clear and well-written manner. Written communication is how everyone will get to know you, so having strong communication skills is especially important to succeeding in an online class.
Experienced online students have emphasized that the most important advice they can give is:
If you are feeling that you are up to the adventure, let’s begin