The suggestions below have been compiled from successful online learners. They represent tips concerning how you might best prepare yourself for online learning experiences. Try these, modify them to fit your own style, and add new ones as your experience grows.
- Participate! Whether you are working alone or in a group, contribute your ideas, perspective, and comments on the subject you are studying, and read about those of your classmates. Your instructor is not the only source of information in your course—you can gain great insight from your peers and they can learn from you as well.
- Take the program and yourself seriously. Elicit the support of your colleagues, family, and friends before you start out on your online adventure. This built-in support system will help you tremendously since there will be times when you will have to sit at your computer for hours at a stretch in the evenings and on weekends. When most people are through with work and want to relax is most likely when you will be bearing down on your course work. It helps to surround yourself with people who understand and respect what you are trying to do.
- Make sure you have a private space where you can study. This will help lend importance to what you are doing as well. Your own space where you can shut the door, leave papers everywhere, and work in peace is necessary. If you try to share study space with the dining room or bedroom, food or sleep will take priority over studying.
- Log on to your course every single day. Once you get into your course, you will be eager to see who has commented on your postings and read the feedback of your instructor and peers. You will also be curious to see who has posted something new that you can comment on. If you let too many days go by without logging on to your course discussion board, you will get behind and find it very difficult to catch up.
- Take advantage of your anonymity. One of the biggest advantages of the online format is that you can pursue your studies without the judgments typical in a traditional classroom. Unless you are using video conferencing, no one can see you, there are no stereotypes, and you don’t have to be affected by raised eyebrows, rolled eyeballs, other students stealing your thunder, or people making other non verbal reactions to your contributions. You don’t have to feel intimidated or upstaged by students who can speak faster than you because you can take all of the time you need to think your ideas through and compose a response before posting your comments to your class.
- Speak up if you are having problems. Remember that your professor cannot see you, so you must be absolutely explicit with your comments and requests. If you are having technical difficulties, or problems understanding something about the course, you MUST speak up—otherwise there is no way that anyone will know that something is wrong. Also, if you don’t understand something, chances are several people have the same question. If another student is able to help you, he/she probably will, and if you are able to explain something to your classmates in need, you will not only help them out, you will reinforce your own knowledge about the subject. Finally, if you know that you will not be able to meet a deadline, e-mail the instructor as soon as possible concerning the possibility of making other arrangements.
- Apply what you learn. Apply everything you learn as you learn it and you will remember it more readily. If it is possible, take the things you learn in your online course today and use them in your workplace tomorrow. Also, try to make connections between what you are learning and what you do or will do in your job. Contributing advice or ideas about the real world as it applies to the subject matter you are studying helps you to internalize what you are learning, and gives valuable insight to your classmates who will benefit from your experience.
- Read the syllabus on your first visit to the course. You may even want to print the syllabus for quick and easy reference. You should also print, write, or set a reminder for the course's major calendar dates. You don't want to miss quizzes, exams, or project due dates. Finally, take the time to complete the Orientation course (available prior to the start of your online course) as it will allow you to familiarize yourself with the layout of the course to make it easier to navigate throughout the site and practice key skills.
- Don’t panic when the technology doesn’t work. Try again and if the system still doesn’t work, contact the the Helpdesk (and cc your instructor so he/she is aware of the issue).