Tips to Give Your Students to Succeed in Online Learning

Contributed by Robert Kubacki (SLPA), Alyson Lyon (SLPA), Donald McAndrews (SLPA), Joyce Valent (SLPA), and Sarah Wallace (Speech-Language Pathology)

A group of Duquesne faculty participating in a CTE online book study developed these tips to give to students to help them succeed in online learning.  Faculty teaching online might want to include a list like this on their blackboard site or in their syllabus.

Before the Course Starts

  1. If a student is new to the on-line format, take only one course the first semester.
  2. Know your priorities.  If you don't have the time or energy to take an online-class at this time, it is OK.  Drop the class as soon as you realize the conflicting situation - before it impacts your other priorities like God, Family, Self, and Work.
  3. Read and understand the course Syllabus - know the student assessment measures for each on-line course to determine whether to take one or more on-line courses in a given semester.
  4. Engage the support of family members to help you succeed.  Let them know what you're dealing with before the semester begins.  Most likely they really don't know how hard you are working.  They will be there when you need them most.
  5. Spend time early in the course (pre-week 1) exploring all parts of the course.  When you are exploring, do some searches in the online library and make sure you are familiar with the online research tools.
  6. Know your learning style and determine whether the on-line learning environment is compatible with that style and if not, look for ways to support your learning style albeit in ways that are not exclusive to the on-line environment.

Managing Your Time

  1. Make on-line courses no less a priority than face to face courses.
  2. Put yourself on a predictable schedule so that you allocate time for the course.  Pace yourself, don’t procrastinate.
  3. Manage the use of your time by blocking time for the semester on your calendar for reading, discussion board posts and projects. Also, block time for your exercise, meditation and eating right.  It will make a big difference!
  4. Make a routine of checking in on the website. You don’t have to post every time you check the website, but make a plan to check it on a regular basis. Even go so far as to make appointments to post or read info on the website. 
  5. Don't procrastinate.  Work ahead when you can.

Protect Your Data

  1. Backup! First and foremost, create your postings in a word processor and save it, to more than one place, then copy and paste it, or upload it. As an online grad student, I wrote a 10-page paper then went to upload it into the assignments area. I lost my connection in the middle and the file was corrupted! I was VERY upset, (being polite here) needless to say. I was able to recover some of the text from the file, but I needed to recompose the paper! Therefore, copy/backup FIRST, then copy and paste or upload second!
  2. This sounds very simple, but I have always learned to type my answers in separate documents before posting to a discussion board. I think this is beneficial for 3 reasons: 1. It allows me to layout and think through my answers before posting; 2. I have a record of the responses in case in the middle of posting I lose a connections; 3. I keep an on-going log of everything I have posted in the event that I need or want to refer to it long after the class is over.

Advice about Course Assignments

  1. Read the course syllabus, in detail. Most times that is where you find what you are looking for, or questioning.
  2. Follow the exact assignment details. Don't give more and don't give less.
  3. Try to make time and do individual research in related areas you are interested in more detail.  It will help you get familiar with the online tools and likely will provide you with richer content to respond to postings and/or write papers.
  4. ASK the professor BEFORE the due date, if you are not sure what to do! They are human and do not bite!

Interacting Online with Others

  1. Get to know your classmates and instructors.
  2. Students should self-select a learning partner who they can stay in touch with off-line regarding questions, assignments, etc, or focus their attention on their learning partner's posts
  3. Proofread your responses in the discussion board before you post.  Written posts can often be misinterpreted, for example your humorous sarcasm might look offensive and threatening because readers don’t have the context or facial expressions (maybe use emoticons).
  4. Try to build on others ideas and don’t be negative.  Instead of “disagreeing” with someone, you may choose to “express from another perspective”.

Enjoy the Experience

  1. Enjoy learning by teaching others what you're learning.  You'll retain the most important lessons.
  2. Enjoy the experience as it is over too soon!