Since most of my career has revolved around online learning, whether it was as a student, Academic Advisor, Director of Enrollment Management, Executive Administrator, or Adjunct Faculty, I have accumulated a vast cadre of knowledge, experience, and things to do and not to do. A successful Distance Learning Student:
1. Keeps in Touch
I love to have students initiate dialogue with me. In fact, I take special notice of the students who initiate communication. Of course, you will always have those who try to take advantage of this, but that’s par for the course. You know, in the virtual classroom, there are always questions that need to be asked,issues that need clarification, and direction that has to be given.
I am proactive in communicating with my students, but I am amazed at how difficult it is to create meaningful dialogue with some.
A recent example of this, that’s not directly related to the learning experience, is just last week my father-in-law died and my wife and I had to travel to Maine for the funeral. Currently, I am teaching two sections so I emailed my students to inform them of the situation and the fact that I would not have email access for several days.
I also let them know that I was extending the deadline on a written project that was due. I heard back from only 25% of the class, of course, most whom were kind in offering their condolences.Remember – online professors have feelings too!
2. Knows how to use technology
I run across both prospective and existing students every semester who actually fear the idea of using a computer. If you are one of those students — don’t worry! You will be surprised at the basic level of computer skill that is necessary for most online programs.
Here are few of the basic skills:
- You should be somewhat proficient at using email.
- You need a basic understanding of Microsoft Word so you can successfully complete any required written work.
- How to open, create and save files is another important aspect of virtual classroom literacy. This might also include uploading or downloading files.
- Make yourself familiar with your school’s learning management software. This software is the platform for course delivery. Components might include discussion boards, chat rooms, learning modules, and tests.
3. Establishes a Personal Honor Code
As an online instructor, what I despise the most is cheating or plagiarism … and I know it occurs. As a student, carefully review all test policies (open book/closed book), citation protocols for papers, and personal communication with other classmates, current or former. I also believe it’s important to establish a personal Honor Code. My son, Shaun Jr., graduated from the University of Virginia. One of the things that impressed me about the university was its long standing Honor Code.From a student perspective, although online learning requires a concerted effort, significant time, lots of energy, and a strong smattering of self discipline, it can also be a liberating, robust learning experience.