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Your Advice for Online Learners?
July 13, 2011 - 9:30pm

Recently, I was asked what advice I'd give to a new online learner. What are the main things that an online student should keep in mind when preparing to take a blended or fully online course?

Below is my best shot - I'm curious what you would add, take away, and improve.

7 Keys to Success as an Online Learner:

1) Make a Schedule: Carve out time during the week. Most online courses have 12 to 18 hours of work to do each week, and it is important to distribute this work throughout the week (don't wait until the weekends). Block out time that you reserve each day devoted to your online course. Figure out what you will not do when your online course is in session, as you will need to be able to devote focused time and energy.

2) Collaboration is Key: The success of an online course course largely depends the quality of the course community. Strive to be present and involved in the online environment. Provide feedback and encouragement to your peers in the discussion forums and other LMS (learning management system) communication tools.

3) Don't Be Perfect: You will not be able to carefully read every single article, chapter or book. Nor will you be able to hand in class projects that are polished and perfect each week. The key is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and to be willing to privilege getting work done over getting work done flawlessly.

4) Demonstrate Leadership and Teamwork Skills: Leadership is about doing whatever you can to make the courses and program successful for everyone. The success of a course depends on both students and faculty, and it is your responsibility to actively work to make the course a great experience for everyone.

5) Be Flexible and Positive: An online program, (and even an online course) is a marathon and not a sprint. It is important to pace yourself and pay attention to maintaining a positive orientation. You may have technology or computer problems, but these will be learning opportunities - stay calm.

6) Proactively Communicate: Communicate proactively with your faculty and fellow students (particularly if you work in teams) in those instances where family emergencies, vacations, or other unforeseen occurrences will make it impossible for you to meet deadlines.

7) Enjoy Yourself: The ability to participate in higher education is a gift. Try to cultivate a relaxed, flexible and positive attitude – and don't worry if things don't always work perfectly. Online learning is hard work, and our teaching methods and technologies are still evolving, so a positive frame of mind is essential for a good learning experience.

Would these principles be different for fully face-to-face courses?

Does it matter if the students are adult working professionals, or 18 to 22 year-olds?

Do you have a list of principles that you share with your blended and online learners?


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