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Get Off to a Good Start with Online Learning

Tips for your good start

happy computer userReading through this orientation is a great start! Once you've completed the orientation, you'll have strategies for

  • getting oriented to a new online course
  • managing your time
  • staying motivated
  • getting help
  • setting up your technology
  • doing library research

Choosing the right course

It is very important that you select an online course that fits into your program of study and for which you are well prepared. Online students have access to the same services as on-campus students. Check with advising and counseling before selecting any courses. You may also want to check with the department and professor offering the course to ensure that you have the necessary knowledge for success.

Set realistic goals

You probably have a long-term goal, such as completing a degree or certificate or gaining skills that will help you advance or change your career. Also, set short-term goals in order to define success for yourself and guide you in evaluating your progress.

Set semester goals, such the knowledge you want to gain and grades you would like to earn. To realistically set these goals, consider the grades you've earned in other, similar courses, how long it's been since you've studied a similar subject, whether your grades in prerequisite courses were strong, and how much time you have to devote to this course. Take into account other obligations that might make it difficult to achieve your goals.

Plan your time. Online courses take as much, if not more, time than on-campus courses. One rule of thumb for any class is to anticipate two hours of out-of-class work for every hour "in class". For a three credit hour class, you should expect to spend at least nine hours per week on coursework. Look at your weekly commitments and schedule that time in. Consider adding a little more if this is your first online experience and to allow for potential communication delays, technical problems, or other issues.

Identify out-of-class resources. Identify and plan for incorporating the resources available to you such as discussing feedback with your professor , finding a study partner in the class, or making a potential professional contact.

Identify course requirements

Once you are registered for an online class, be sure to look for the following information.

  • What textbook and other materials are required?
  • Will you need any special hardware or software, and how do you acquire and install it?
  • What is your course schedule? When are tasks due?
  • What are the expectations for participation, such as posting to discussion boards? What are the criteria for a high-quality post? Look for a rubric, if provided.
  • Are there any live (synchronous) sessions? If so, when are they?
  • How does your professor prefer that you communicate with him or her?
  • What sort of turn-around time can you expect on email messages and assignment feedback?
  • [For online courses not in an online program] Will you be required to come to a campus for any class meetings or testing? When and which campus?

There are several places to look for the answers.

  • The Syllabus. You will find important course policies and other information for which you are responsible.
  • Your CCRI email. CCRI email is the official method of communication. You need to check it regularly (it can be set up to go to your phone).
  • Announcements in the learning management system.
  • Syllabus, Student Support, and other links within Blackboard.
  • A course calendar or schedule.
  • If you have checked all of the above and can't find what you're looking for, contact the professor using his or her preferred method.