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Online Learning

Resources and tips about online learning for students.

Strategies for Learning Online

Engagement and Participation

For most people, learning is a social act. We learn from others (even when we’re reading or watching TV), and we make learning stick by talking or sharing what we’ve learned with others.

Which is why classroom environment and community matters. The more you are able to make connections with other students, your instructor and the course materials, the more likely you are to enjoy learning and have that learning “stick”. It is always your right to expect a class environment where all students can engage openly and with mutual respect.

Ways you can engage in an online class:

  • participate actively and regularly in class activities and discussions,
  • make connections with other students wherever possible,
  • take advantage of instructor office hours,
  • really take time to read or watch or process assigned texts, videos, or audio works
  • talk about what you’re learning with people outside the class.
     

Community and Accountability

For most people, learning is a social act. We learn from others (even when we’re reading or watching TV), and we make learning stick by talking or sharing what we’ve learned with others.

Which is why classroom environment and community matters. The more you are able to make connections with other students, your instructor and the course materials, the more likely you are to enjoy learning and have that learning “stick”.

In online classes, it can sometimes feel harder to make connections and get to know the other people in the class, but this community is what will get you through the hard times so it's worth the effort.

Here are some ideas about how to build and grow community in your online classes:

  • if your class has an "introduce yourself" forum, consider posting photos of yourself doing things you love--someone else might see an interest you have in common!
  • start a class group on social media if there's no easy way to message each other through the official course communication
  • ask your instructor to divide large class discussions into smaller discussion groups--it's always easier to get to know a smaller group than a larger one
  • look for ways to connect with classmates, in and outside of class
  • if you are comfortable with it, in video meetings, turn both your mic and camera on when you speak so people can see your face

Resilience and Persistence

Research shows that a staggering number of students fail to complete online classes, a rate up to 7 times higher than traditional face to face classes (Small Teaching Online 2019, p. 136).

There are probably many reasons for this depressing statistic, but one of them surely is just how easy it is to drift away from an online class. Without the weekly structure of in-person meetings and the accountability that being in the same room with the same group of people creates, it just feels easy to, well, stop participating when things get tough.

So how do you motivate yourself to keep going? Here are a few ideas:

  • write goals for what you want to get out of this course / program / degree and tape them somewhere that you can see them while you're working
  • create a schedule for yourself each week, and reward yourself when you stick to it
  • make a habit to attend your instructor's office hours, even if you don't have a particular question--having a weekly check-in really helps you feel and stay more connected to the class
  • use your imagination about how to make course materials or assignments personally meaningful to you--instructors are often open to you bringing in other materials or modifying course assignments to make them more relevant to you
  • anticipate that there will be moments where it feels easier to not participate and make a plan for how you will deal with them
  • if you fall behind, don't give up! ask for help from your instructor, the Writing Centre, an Online Learning Mentor, or a classmate
  • develop some accountability systems with friends, classmates or family members--making promises to people outside ourselves makes us prioritize this work

 

Structure and Organization

If you are taking primarily asynchronous online classes--those that don't have any or many face-to-face meetings--you may find that you need to be extra-organized to avoid missing deadlines or activities, as you won't have weekly meetings to remind you.

If you don't already use a calendar or weekly planner, now might be a good time to start.

Some suggestions from students for keeping on schedule with online coursework:

  • put deadlines for all course activities (not just the big assignments) in your weekly schedule
  • set alarms or reminders on your phone to remind you of important deadlines
  • check and double-check deadlines--it's easy to misread 11:59am as 11:59pm!
  • make a habit to check in with the Moodle site for each class at least 3 times a week
  • check your ECUAD email every day and read all emails from your instructors
  • make sure you subscribe to important discussion forums on your class sites so that you will get notifications when your instructor makes announcements

Further Resources

UBC has created an excellent guide for Online Learning Tips: https://keeplearning.ubc.ca/learning-tips/

Northeastern University in the US has created this guide to online learning which covers important topics such as holding yourself accountable for your learning and making sure you get value out of online learning.

EdX offers a self-paced 2-week course on How to Learn Online, which covers topics including time management, self care, and organization: https://www.edx.org/course/how-to-learn-online

For those who don't want to invest in a full course, EdX has also produced this quick tips guide.

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