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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Taking Your First Online Course? Here are Some Basic Tips to Help You Succeed

Today I have Karen Smith as guest blogger. Please be sure to check out her unique guest post. Guest posts are always welcome, please contact me.

While the world of online education has been booming for the past few years,  it’s important for us to remember that there are still people who have yet to venture into this vast world of virtual learning. I'm not saying it's not easy to get wrapped up in all of the new-fangled, technological advances available to virtual students, we just needn't forget those who are still new to the whole thing.
Each semester more and more give it a try, if for no other reason than to see what all of the fuss is about. So, for those of you preparing to embark on this path for the first time, I thought I'd offer a few tips, tricks and things to consider to make the experience a positive one.

Print Out the Syllabus
This might seem like such a simple, obvious step that it shouldn't be listed, but I think it's important enough to be first. After all, the syllabus is the foundation of any course. So, as soon as it's released, I recommend printing out a hard copy and posting it somewhere near where you plan to do most of your work. This way, you will always have it within arm's reach for quick reference should you need it. Plus, you never know when the class's system might randomly go down, so having a copy easily accessibly can really come in handy and possibly even save your grade!

Establish a Regular Schedule for Yourself
Or as regular as your current priorities will allow. Part of the beauty in online learning is the flexibility it allows. Depending on your course, you may have specific times you HAVE to be online and participating, but for the most part you are allowed to come and go as you please.

But be aware, don't take this as an opportunity to let your procrastination take over. Having the leisure to make your own schedule and deadlines makes it a bit tempting to put stuff off, but this isn't advised unless completely necessary. You want to stay on top of assignments almost more so than in an ordinary face-to-face course because you never know when technology will turn against you and delay the chance you have to turn in an assignment.
Make a List of Important Phone Numbers

Speaking of technology backfiring, you need to prepare for that happening to you at the worst possible time. The one drawback to online learning is during crucial times like test taking or project submission, you are at the mercy of your machines. So, should the unthinkable happen and you lose your connection, or data or whatever the technical emergency you'll want to instantly contact either your professor, the technical support line or both.
If you have their numbers written down somewhere nearby, you will speed up the process, especially if the issue is that your machine is unresponsive and you now can’t look up their information even if you wanted to. If you happen to know someone else in the course, you should write their number down too, just in case. Although it might be easy to forget given the method of teaching, this is still a class with other humans, so if you have a problem sometimes a phone call is the best solution.

Overall, if you are taking your first online class, just approach it like you would any new course. Sure the methods of interacting and communicating might be a bit different than more traditional courses, but the goal of learning remains the same. Just give it your all and you're guaranteed to be fine.
Karen Smith, a former newspaper reporter and globe trotter, now freelances for various publications and websites. She hopes to bring her readers the latest in business education at, as well as up-to-date, informed advice on everything from careers to parenting to health and more.
Karen welcomes your comments below!

Many thanks to Karen.
Enjoy your reading!

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